At the sight of a squealing baby pig, a school full of children let out squeals of their own.
The seven-week old piglet stood nervously surrounded by children. Suddenly, he was picked up and given a shower of kisses from North Brook Elementary Schoolâ€™s principal, Donald Welch.
â€œI thought it was very funny,â€ said Michaela Beam, a fourth-grade student. â€œI didnâ€™t think Mr. Welch would do it.â€
Welch really had no choice in the matter. He had promised his students that if they raised over $1,000 for Relay for Life, a pig- kissing would occur. The schoolâ€™s total ended up being over $4,500.
The schoolâ€™s success is credited to a series of off-the-wall fund raisers including a lemonade walkathon, raffles, auctions, morning doughnut sales to parents on their way to work and sale of taboo goods.
On one day students who bought drinks benefiting Relay for Life could sip them in class. Another day, students could pay a quarter for the privilege of chewing gum and wearing a hat in class.
â€œThey raised a lot of quarters that way,â€ said Beam.
The 481-student school was just one of many Lincoln County Schools that raised significant funds for Relay for Life.
â€œI was amazed when I looked at the totals from the schools this year,â€ said Sue Teddy, the community income manager for Lincoln County who spoke at the event.
At Wednesdayâ€™s pig-kissing, students were congratulated for their efforts and reminded of the reason they raised the money.
â€œEach and everyone of those students in that school know what Relay for Life is,â€ said Teddy.
It helped that the two cochairman for the schoolâ€™s campaign were both cancer survivors.
Frankie Beam, a cochairwoman, is a 13 year survivor of breast cancer. A number of women in her family have battled the disease, including her sister who is fighting it right now.
Nora Gilbert, her cochair, is also a survivor. Back in 2002 she was diagnosed with breast cancer. In the same year, her husband developed prostate cancer.
They helped each other through the ordeal and are now both cancer-free.
â€œI do not know what I would have done without him,â€ said Gilbert. â€œHe just did everything, from holding my hand to taking me to the doctorâ€™s. This was from a man who never changed our childrenâ€™s diapers.â€
Whether or not students at North Brook Elementary have had Gilbert and Beam as teachers, nearly all have a personal connection to cancer.
â€œCan you think of anybody that in some way hasnâ€™t been touched by cancer?â€ asked Gilbert.
The two womenâ€™s experience with cancer has changed the way they approach life.
â€œItâ€™s made me appreciate everybody and everything,â€ said Beam. â€œYou look at things a little bit differently after breast cancer, after any cancer.â€
A personal experience also encourages survivors to fight back whether it be through lemonade sales or a pig kissing.
â€œWeâ€™re constantly looking for new ways to fight cancer,â€ said Beam.
by Sarah Grano