Walk of Hope supports classmates with cancer

It was amazing how a sea of more than 500 females standing outside The Seton Keough High School, Baltimore, could stay so quiet and still. Yet the hush was understandable, given the emotional outpouring of words sinking into their hearts as fellow classmates spoke about two students fighting cancer and their campus minister who died last year of the disease.

Before the first Kathleen Bowen Walk for Hope commenced March 5 around Gator Circle (three times around is a mile), students, faculty, staff and parents honored a moment of silence for Kathleen Bowen, prayed together and oversaw a ribbon-cutting ceremony in honor of the campus minister who died last June, and in support of senior Shannon Wolfe and incoming freshman Keeley Imel, both diagnosed last summer with two different cancers and currently in treatment.

Shannon attended the walk-a-thon. In remission from an aggressive form of leukemia, she covered her face with a white surgical mask.

“It’s just so huge!” she said on WBAL-TV. “I don’t think of myself as a person that could make such a big impact on anyone that they would go out of their way to do this for me – and to be inspired to do it for other people.”

Although the Walk for Hope banner continually blew down, the spirit and energy of the girls was noticeably up as they walked the day away, dressed in hand-painted and colorful T-shirts supporting the cause and signifying teams.

Inside activities included “morale rooms,” where students baked desserts and crafted quilts, books on tape, string bracelets, T-shirts, scrapbooks and inspirational signs for patients of local hospitals.

“It was an amazing day that began and ended with prayer,” said Jane Ponton, director of communications, about the no-classes-no-uniforms day of unity, cancer awareness and fundraising. “The students felt compelled to help their classmates through their difficult struggles and pay tribute to the school’s beloved campus minister. It was truly inspirational and a testament to our school’s mission.”

The school community raised more than $20,000 in walk-a-thon pledges to help defray costs for the families and to donate to St. Jude’s Hospital – where Keeley is in treatment for medulla blastoma, a rare cancer of the brain – and to brighten spirits for other children battling serious illnesses.

Teachers Lori Olivi and Jennifer Casey coordinated the event after the idea was conceived by members of the school’s National Honor Society, Vincentian Youth Outreach Club, Student Council and SALT (Serving and Leading by Teens).

To view slide shows of the event or the WBAL-TV news clip, visit www.setonkeogh.com.

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.