Simple, colorful doodles covered some feathers of the turkeys. Others boasted vivid, intricate designs. Despite obvious differences, one symbol was present through both the basic and detailed drawings.
A ribbon, the symbol for cancer awareness, was illustrated in a variety of ways in the drawings, each one a representative of the different people who drew them.
Each and every feather carried the same message, no matter the skill of its artist:
“You are not alone. We are here. We care.”
Coach Jennifer Card’s Cross Country team held a fundraiser just before Thanksgiving to raise money for Lester Jackson, a coach and teacher at Stockdale ISD who was diagnosed with lung cancer this past summer. Through an unconventional, yet creative fundraiser, the Cross Country team raised $280 plus artwork for Coach Jackson. The runners sold paper turkey feathers for $1. Then, students who bought feathers could decorate them however they’d like and return them to Coach Card. When enough feathers were collected, they were glued on to a paper turkey and hung in the school hallway.
“When you find out someone has cancer, you go through a bunch of emotions: sadness, uncertainty, fear, even anger,” Coach Card said. “Cancer not only affects that person, but their family and friends as well. My mom is battling cancer herself, and I know how helpless the diagnoses can make people feel. We wanted to do something, anything to help (Coach Jackson) out.”
The Jackson family received the money and art Dec. 5.
“We opened (the box) together, and were both just in awe,” Coach Jackson’s wife, Ginger Jackson, a librarian for Stockdale High School, said. “The thoughtfulness, awesome idea…I could go on and on. This gift sends a message of universal caring. This group of young people has shown that they care about others, even people that they are not directly involved with. This gesture is above and beyond sportsmanship, it’s deep from the heart!”
Battling Stage 4 lung cancer, Coach Jackson, 61, has worked at Stockdale for 29 years. He has taught all the different types of science and social studies classes, but is currently facilitating ISS. In addition to teaching, he coaches Tennis and Cross Country for both junior high and high school.
“Coach Jackson has been at Stockdale for a long time,” Coach Card said. “I remember him at Stockdale when I was in high school and we played Stockdale teams. He does so much for the kids at Stockdale. He was able to make it to their district Cross Country meet at the end of October. Seeing him there, still supporting his kids when he was sick, made us want to do something for him.”
Thus, the Cross Country team decided to put their competitive nature aside to work together and raise money for Coach Jackson.
“The Cross Country team is a very special group of kids,” Coach Card said. “Although they are very competitive on the course, they are also very supportive of each other and others. Even after they race, they spread out on the course and encourage other runners – not only from their team, but from other schools’ teams as well. They were really excited to do the fundraiser. Helping others is really a part of American culture; I just think students don’t always know how to help.”
Through this experience, the Badger and Lady Badger athletes learned giving back is more rewarding than just receiving – or winning. Also, because they were able to see the difference they made for Coach Jackson, they now know they can make a difference in other people’s lives too.
“Through fundraising for Coach Jackson I feel like I’ve helped someone and really made a difference,” sophomore Clara Gotthardt said. “Being able to help him out is a really big deal, and it makes me feel like I’ve changed something for him.”
Not only did the fundraiser make the Cross Country members feel good about giving, it made them aware that nowadays not enough people give back.
“This experience made me think more about charity,” freshman Jordan Garcez said. “Donating to those in need has much more thought involved in it compared to just giving presents. I don’t think enough people realize or act upon that.”
Coach Jackson’s illness and the impact on his family – Mrs. Jackson and son, senior Jordan Jackson – puts things in perspective.
“No one’s life is perfect; each and every one of us have our own struggles,” Coach Card said. “By recognizing others’ struggles and doing what we can to help out, it may make us realize that our own problems are not so bad. There is always someone in the world whose struggle is worse than our own.”
So often, rivalry clouds competitors from seeing their opponents as human, but the Cross Country’s gift to the Jacksons proves winning isn’t everything.
“We are so appreciative that these students took the time to do a fundraiser and, equally as important, cared enough about a person, from another town, to do this,” Mrs. Jackson said. “This just shows there are great young people in this world. This is the ultimate example of giving and sportsmanship!”