By Rick Hinton
Third-grade teacher, Jennifer Bolen, stood before her class at Southport Elementary with a smile upon her face. You could tell she was proud of their participation and engagement in a project they had taken ownership of over the past few weeks – awareness of multiple myeloma. They were in the home stretch of the project. “The first thing we did on Aug. 12 was had a special guest about multiple myeloma. On Oct. 4 we’ll have a fundraiser for people to give,” student Amir Cabrera-Gomez explained the process, pointing to handmade logos and charts in the classroom window.
Multiple myeloma is a cancer that forms in a type of white blood cell called a plasma cell. These are what help you fight infections. This condition causes cancer cells to accumulate in the bone marrow, crowding out healthy blood cells. Rather than producing antibodies, the cancer cells produce abnormal proteins that cause complications. Multiple myeloma almost always starts out as a benign condition called monoclonal gammopathy (MGUS). The benign condition will change each year for about 1 percent of these people, with them developing multiple myeloma or a related cancer. Myeloma is presently incurable, so the only option is to fight it.
Southport Elementary has adopted Project Based Learning (PBL), a learning style allowing the students to engage in solving authentic problems in the community. They develop their own goals and questions to guide their learning throughout the project, then complete tasks and activities leading to a solution to a real-world problem. PBL results with students attaining a real purpose to connect to their content and lessons. These students have focused in upon multiple myeloma.
“Southport Elementary is working with Meghan McFadden, Ms. Lizzie Conkle and Ms. Emily Jones from the Office of Gift Development at Indiana University Melvin and (Bren) Simon Cancer Center,” Bolen stated. “My third-grade team is partnering with the Office of Gift Development for the Miles for Myeloma 2019 (M4M2019) fundraising efforts.” The PBL project, reflecting the student’s hard work, culminates Oct. 4 with an event called the Southport Spin for M4M.
“We have 120 third-grade students working on this project in hopes of generating awareness and donations for this meaningful fundraiser,” Bolen stated.
Former construction worker Kevin McAdams was only 30 when his life changed. “I was always really healthy, so to get told I had cancer was a huge shock,” he offered. “With me being younger than most myeloma patients, I may look to live my life a lot closer to the way I used to live it than a lot of other patients. It’s unique to each person.”
For Jennifer Bolen, multiple myeloma hits a little close to home. “This PBL project is especially near and dear to my family as my father-in-law lives with this treatable, but incurable disease. My husband has participated in both the Spin event and the M4M two-day, 200-mile ride, to help bring awareness to help find a cure.” Father-in-law, Larry Bolen, was diagnosed in April 2004 and had stem cell treatments in 2015. He went into remission … at least for a year. The cancer returned. Still, he smiled as he answered each question asked. “After my diagnosis in 2004 I was given five to six years to live,” he stated. He paused to look at each upturned face. “I fooled them. I’m still here!”
SOUTHPORT SPIN FOR M4M
WHAT: Southport Elementary third-graders are hosting the first Stationary Spin Bike-A-Thon to raise awareness and funds to find a cure for multiple myeloma. The public is invited to donate $1 per minute on a stationary bike to generate funds for this cause.
WHEN: Oct. 4, 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
WHERE: Southport Elementary School, 261 Anniston Dr.