Pupils put on their hats to help other youngsters


HOWELL – The very last topic any parent wants to discuss is cancer. In fact, wouldn’t it be wonderful if the topic never, ever had to be broached? Unfortunately, few among us haven’t been touched, in some way, by the disease.

One teacher at Howell’s Land O’ Pines School decided last year to make a learning experience out of cancer awareness, and with the help of his fellow teachers, has succeeded in taking a terrible subject and turning it into something that allows the children to make a difference while helping others.

The Hats On Day project began a decade ago in Missouri when a fifth-grade class wanted to raise money to help a fellow classmate who was battling cancer. The children wanted to raise awareness about the effects of chemotherapy and decided to wear hats to show their support for people who lose their hair while undergoing treatment for cancer.

During the 10 years since the first Hats On Day, the project has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars around the country for children with cancer. Raymond Gredder, a fifth-grade teacher at Land O’ Pines, heads up the program locally. As part of the project, Land O’ Pines students are asked to bring in monetary donations this week that will be contributed to the Foundation for Children with Cancer. On April 18, the Land O’ Pines students will wear hats and stickers in honor of the Hats On Day project.

“My favorite part is getting to see all the hats. It’s fun because I like the feeling of helping others,” said Mitziarelli Ramirez, 11.

This is the second year Land O’ Pines is participating in the Hats On Day project. Last year the Student Council organized the weeklong collection and raised more than $2,000. This year Gredder is running the program through the fifthgrade health curriculum. He believes it is extremely important for children to be involved in events such as Hats On Day that promote an awareness and understanding of people in need.

“The best part of the day is that we don’t keep one cent. We give it all to children who need it most. It’s great to help out,” said Lisa Cerenov, 11

“As an educator, it is part of my job to teach children life lessons; we take for granted many things in life, including our health. By doing this project, we can teach kids that they can change a person’s life every day,” Gredder said. “That’s my message to my kids as they are preparing this project. Even though it is great to have a fundraiser, there are many things we can do every day to become better people.”

Gredder’s fifth-graders are “in charge” of this project. After a discussion about childhood cancers and a lesson about the importance of helping others, the students formed teams, made posters and fliers, decorated collection cans and are ready to visit classrooms to talk about the project. The entire school population took home fliers about the project and are excited about donating money for a good cause.

“It is nice to involve the whole class decorating and speaking. It was everyone, not just 10 or 11 kids, but the whole class. I like that. Also, it is a chance to give back to children with cancer,” said Dylan Creighton, 11.

The collection will continue at Land O’ Pines through April 22. After that date, donations may be sent to the Foundation for Children with Cancer, 11327 Gravois Road, Suite 202, St. Louis,Mo. 63126. Donations are tax deductible. Call (314) 843- 9300 for more information.

“The best thing about Hats On Day is feeling good about helping someone else. I enjoyed decorating the school with posters and I can’t wait to see how much we collect,” said Mike Parisi, 11.

“I’m so proud of my fifth-graders who have helped to organize and promote the event,” Gredder said. “Hopefully, they are learning about helping others along the way. I hope my students learn that helping people is something we can do every day. And I hope they understand the feeling of doing something totally selfless for someone else.”