Teachers and students often share a special bond but for grade two Glenbow student, Ella Reimer, and her teacher Mrs. Powers that bond runs especially deep. What is unique to their relationship is they are both cancer survivors and they are sharing their stories to bring awareness of the disease to their class, school, community, and beyond.
Ella’s cancer story begins when she was diagnosed with a brain tumour when she was just two and a half years old. Her mom Christie says within the first month of her diagnosis she had three surgeries followed by chemo. It was a very tough go as little Ella had to start from scratch and relearn everything from walking, talking, eating, and sitting up. For Ella and the Reimer family, one of the things that helped them through the very difficult time was Kids Cancer Care. The Reimer’s have instilled in their children that it is important to give back. Ella’s mom Christie, remembers Ella met Mrs. Powers when she was fundraising for Kids Cancer Care at Glenbow and she came home and said, “There’s a teacher that bought an ornament and she has cancer just like me.”
For Jessica Powers, she had just returned to Glenbow School following cancer surgery in her second battle against the disease when she learned of Ella’s story. Fast forward to this September when they were both very happy to discover that Ella would be in Mrs. Powers' grade two class.
Ella loves school and adored her grade one teacher last year, but Ella’s mom Christie says, “This year it just seems there is just an extra something when Ella talks about Mrs. Powers.”
Mrs. Powers recalls that when the school year started in September it was Kids Cancer Awareness Month and Ella presented her new teacher with a golden yellow sweatshirt that had Strength written on it. Powers recalls, “Here I am trying to hold back tears in front of my new class as this little girl is giving me this gorgeous sweatshirt.”
Ever since then, Mrs. Powers, Ella, and their entire grade two class have been discussing, learning, and sharing about cancer awareness. Now the class wears gold or yellow (because that’s the colour for Kids Cancer Awareness) every Friday to support Ella and other children who have or have had cancer. Powers says, “And so it started off the year that way with some pretty deep conversations with these little grade two kids about cancer and how it affects people.”
Mrs. Powers’ grade two class is also about doing and taking action to bring awareness. It started with both survivors’ desire to give back. First, Mrs. Powers wants to cut her hair and donate it and combine that with raising funds for the Alberta Cancer Foundation and Kids Cancer Care. As well, the class has created beautiful Zentangle heart cards that people can purchase (just in time for Valentine’s Day) with 100 per cent of the funds going to the fundraiser. The class voted on the name of the project and “Share the Love” received the most votes because Ella and her teacher had talked to the class about how they got a lot of love and support from people when they had cancer and that they wanted to give back.
Mrs. Powers says, “The kids are super excited to see where it’s going to go. Every day, we have been checking the totals on the fundraising page, it’s only been a couple of days, and we do drum rolls, and we show the total and they’re like, oh my gosh, there’s so much more now!” Of course, a great teacher never misses a teaching opportunity, they do math with it showing their 10 and 100 blocks. They have had to pull out the 1000 blocks because the campaign has already reached over $3000 with the goal being $1000.
So, how does Ella feel about all of it? Her mom says, “I think she is extremely proud of it and when you talk to her about it, she gets this little smirk on her face of this like happiness. And I think she just loves that people are helping to give back to somewhere she has always given back to.”
The bond between Ella and Mrs. Powers will grow even stronger as Ella is the one who will be cutting her teacher’s hair when the time comes on March 14. Christie Reimer says, “It’s heartwarming, it speaks volumes of her teacher. She’s the one who put thought into it originally and then wanted to bring Ella into it to have Ella cut her hair. She could have given back to the Alberta Cancer Foundation, but she chose to give back to the one that helped Ella as well so that just speaks volumes of the person she is.”
It takes incredible bravery to be cancer survivors and even more to share their stories like Ella and Mrs. Powers. The wonderful part is that their stories are leading to awareness and acceptance by a very young community who will carry the message forward for many years to come.
It is a true testament to the importance of sharing the journey in the fight against cancer.
You can show your support by donating to the Share the Love Campaign by clicking HERE.