The Northwest Allen County Schools Relay for Life and Schools vs. Cancer raised over $71,000 for American Cancer Society during the 2020-21 school year.

Two NACS schools ranked in the top 10 in the nation with Perry Hill Elementary School placing second with over $15,000 and Cedar Canyon Elementary School placing seventh with over $8,700.

"It's an important way to give back to the community, and we are aware of how many lives are touched by cancer," said NACS Superintendent Chris Himsel. "The involvement of our community has been a big part of increasing awareness and support. We're grateful to the American Cancer Society for providing instructional resources related to cancer prevention that support our teaching of Indiana academic standards. By making the academic standards come to life by connection with our students through physical activity and encouraging healthy habits that actively prevent or reduce their chances of getting cancer in the future makes this effort more meaningful for everyone involved."

This year's event was sponsored locally by FCI Construction, Lawrence Building Group, Meijer, Lengacher Bros Construction, Peppi's Bar & Grill, New Old Again, Golf BOGO, Brevin's Restaurant, Premier Communications, Pizza Hut and Berne Workwear. Hallmark Home Mortgage also participated in the event by raising over $5,000 for the fight against cancer.

The 10 schools in the NACS district combined to raise over $55,000 which made it the top ranked event in the nation for Schools vs. Cancer fundraising. Oak View, Arcola and Huntertown were also in the top 10 during early spring and finished in the top 25 fundraising schools in the nation.

Kathy Dougald, the co-chair of the NACS Community Relay for Life and Secretary/Treasure of NACS, said the district is "so blessed and proud" for all the accomplishments the schools have had over the past year in light of COVID-19.

"We had a very successful relay due to our community and all of the efforts everyone has put in," she said. "It's an honor."

ACS Senior Development Manager Ashley Wellman said the money raised will go towards the organization's mission in providing people all over the country with the best research possible and finding treatments and cures for cancer.

"It also means continuing to provide services to people here in Allen County," she said.

Wellman said 2020 was a tough year for nonprofit organizations everywhere and donations were down due to job loss and had a lot of cancer patients didn't have access to things they normally would.

"It was really tough all-around for everyone," she said. "For nonprofits, for cancer patients and screenings were very low last year. That's a big push for ACS, to make sure people are getting their routine screenings."

The NACS Community Relay for Life event was held on June 12 and was modified to a socially-distanced walk around the Maple Creek Middle School campus. More than 100 walkers came out to celebrate, honor and remember those that have been touched by cancer.

Eel River Elementary School joined team #EmmyStrong this year as the Relay for Life's Gold Together team and also earned national accolades. Gold Together is the ACS' childhood cancer initiative which raises funds that directly support research, education, advocacy and services, as well as promote cancer prevention efforts that could reduce children's risk for cancer later in life. Team #EmmyStrong and Eel River raised over $7,000 during the school year and finished seventh in the nation for Gold Together team fundraising.

On Sept. 17, Eel River and #EmmyStrong are hosting "Emmy's Evening of Hope" at Huntertown Family Park from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. The event is in honor of Emily Jovevski, who was diagnosed with Synovial Sarcoma at age 14 and fought for five years.

Jovevski was a student in the NACS district before passing away from cancer. According to Wellman, her dream was to be a pediatric oncology nurse to help children with cancer. All of the funds raised at the event will be used for childhood cancer.

The 2021-22 NACS Community Relay for Life event is scheduled for May 7, 2022. The event is open to anyone in the Fort Wayne community. For more information, visit relay.org/NACSChargersFightingCancerIN or contact Ashley Wellman at ashley.wellman@cancer.org.

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