Durant Middle School raises funds for Relay for Life

By Jessica Breger jbreger@civitasmedia.com

March 27, 2014

One Southeastern Oklahoma State University student organization recently received some help from Durant seventh-graders to raise money for a good cause.

Durant Middle School’s seventh-grade band put on a four-song concert Tuesday to raise money for team Abigail-Psi Chi in this year’s Relay for Life event, coming up in April.

Psi Chi, the SE Behavioral Science Department’s fraternal organization, has participated in the Relay for Life for the past four years, but members said this is the first year to have a big fundraiser.

“This was the first time at this scale,” said Phi Chi Vice President Kristi Heath, noting the organization usually just did fundraisers such as bake sales.

This year, Phi Chi Secretary Carla Pettit had an idea inspired by her daughter, who is in the seventh-grade band.

Pettit said she had remembered her daughter telling her about a song the band was working on called “Superheroes are Us.”

When she found out the theme for this year’s Relay for Life is Superheroes Against Cancer, it clicked. She contacted the band’s assistant director, Derek Fleeman, and asked for his help.

“I immediately wanted to jump on board,” said Fleeman.

The concert was conducted at the Choctaw Community Center. Charging $5 per adult and $2 per child, the event raised $708 toward the Relay for Life.

Fleeman had the students perform four songs from this year’s curriculum. These songs, he said, all seemed to have a connection with the journey endured by a person with cancer.

The first song performed was “Fire Dance,” which Fleeman said represented the devastation people feel when diagnosed with cancer.

The second song was “Colors of the Wind” from Disney’s “Pocahontas.” This song represented the hope one receives from others

The third song was called “Pandora.” Based on the Greek myth of Prometheus stealing the gods’ fire and being tricked with Pandora and her box full of evil with a bit of hope, this song represents the roller-coaster that is cancer treatment.

Fleeman said this song fit because, like Pandora’s Box, cancer treatment can be harmful but does provide hope of recovery.

The final song performed was “Superheroes are Us.” This mesh-up of superhero themes included those from films featuring James Bond and Austin Powers — two protagonists not commonly considered among the ranks of the caped kind.

Fleeman said, just as these two might not be thought of as superheroes, unexpected heroes arise when someone is going through cancer treatment.

Durant seventh-grade student Abigail Boatman lent not only her time but her name to the team this year. An ambassador for the Abigail-Psi Chi team, Boatman said she is a top fundraiser for the event.

Boatman said she is involved with the event largely due to her watching the journey of the Burkhalter family, which leads the local Families Feeding Families nonprofit kitchen. She said, while Leticia Burkhalter’s husband was in treatment, the Burkhalter daughters would stay with her family. This went on for about three years, and Boatman said it really impacted her life.

The event also featured two speakers struggling in their own ways with cancer. Leticia described the journey her family has been going through since her husband was diagnosed in 2009. She explained how the American Cancer Society has helped and that all donations made locally stay in the community.

Rick Buffalo also spoke on his journey since being diagnosed.

“Every six months, I’m told I’m gonna die. I live. I’m told I’m gonna die,” said Buffalo.

Buffalo revealed how cancer seems to take a lot from a person — not just health but time and money as well.

Bryan County’s Relay for Life will be April 26 at Paul Laird Field on the SE campus. Event details were not yet available.

Burkhalter encouraged all community members to get involved and show support for those fighting, survivors and those lost to cancer.

- Jessica Breger can be reached at (580) 924-4388 ext. 116 or on Twitter @jbreger_news