The Granite Falls mother was diagnosed with two types of breast cancer in February. She since has had three surgeries and completed her fourth round of chemotherapy only days before the event. She walked it with her daughter, 11-year-old Tatum, and 28 other students in the multi-age classrooms of teachers Debra Howell and Mike Schireman at Monte Cristo Elementary School.
"The classroom is wonderful and, with the energy they brought with them, I felt like I was floating high," said Slaughter, 45. "It was an incredible feeling. I got a little choked up."
Slaughter volunteers in Howell's classroom once a week and often corrects math assignments. She originally discussed with Howell the idea of participating in the fundraiser for the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, a breast cancer charity organization. Months before the 5K event, Slaughter learned that students and parents wanted to join her, too.
At the event Sunday, eight students from Crossroads High School in Granite Falls joined the team that Tatum, her classmates, their teacher and parents called the 'Peppermint Susies.' The team of 56 people wore pink, made signs and yelled out cheers as they walked the event route. Altogether, the team raised nearly $2,700 with registration fees and additional donations.
Tatum said the walk was fun and her mom was happy and loud.
"Most of the time she's kind of quiet and she was like 'Woohoo' and all happy," she said. "It was nice. All of my classmates were there and my teacher was there."
Howell and Schireman are brother and sister. They also team teach classes of fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders. The students and their families gave Slaughter a collection of gift cards for things like food and gas after hearing about her diagnosis. Howell and Kathy Zenk, the mother of another sixth-grader, drove Slaughter to her medical appointments.
This wasn't the first time students in Howell's class have supported someone battling cancer.
Zenk's son, Collin, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, in May 2011. The class gave them gift cards for groceries and gas then, Zenk said. The class threw a surprise party for Collin on Friday to celebrate the end of his chemotherapy treatments and remission.
"Basically the kids have followed him very closely throughout this ordeal and watched him be very, very sick," Howell said. "They need to celebrate because they have been through the ups and downs with him."
Collin, 12, appreciated the support of his classmates. Now, he's doing his best to offer advice about cancer treatment to Slaughter and be her friend. He covered a hat with pink duct tape and wore it during the Race for the Cure.
"It's good to know that there are a lot of people that are supportive," he said. "I try to support her and bring her some gifts."
Slaughter and Tatum are thankful for their friends in Howell's class. They are planning to participate in future Puget Sound Race for the Cure events. Tatum added she and her classmates feel proud of the $1.1 million raised in this year's event.
"We all feel really responsible for the $1.1 million raised because we were part of it," Tatum said. "I think it's important that we find a cure."
Amy Daybert: 425-339-3491; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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