Armed with medallions and stuffed animals, the Old Kings Elementary K-Kids play an active roll in the Relay for Life in Flagler County.
Hailey Sands, a fifth-grader at Old Kings Elementary, and the president of K-Kids, a club sponsored by Kiwanis, has preparations underway for the annual Relay for Life April 8 through 9. Her group awards each cancer survivor a medallion before the annual walk around Central Park, at Town Center, and they will be waiting for the walkers at the end with a hugable stuffed animal.
“I have done this since third grade,” she said proudly.
Her sister, Zoe, was a member two years ago, so Hailey joined a year early. K-Kids is for fourth through sixth grade students. Now, according to club sponsor, Lauren Schiller, Hailey runs the weekly meetings on her own. Schiller is merely a required adult presence.
“She's just here,” Hailey confirmed with a smile.
Schiller took the club over after founder, Rita Jones, retired from OKES.
“The last three years Rita was here, I worked with her so when she retired we could have an easy transition,” Schiller said. "We give the animals as hugs for the cancer survivors," she said.
Schiller knows the value of the stuffed animals the children hand out – her mother received one from a group in Arkansas.
“When my mom had cancer, she received a stuffed animal, and she kept it with her. I have it now in my bedroom because I know how much it meant to her,” Schiller said. “I know this is a worthwhile thing because I have personally seen how important it is to them.”
The K-Kids initially met before school every other Thursday in Schiller's classroom, but that wasn't enough time for the energetic youngsters to complete all they wanted to accomplish. During their meetings the group makes signs, with glitter and markers, and posts them around the school to encourage others to attend Relay. They will also tag each animal with a Kiwanis card so the recipient knows where it came from. When they are not working on Relay they are busy with other community projects.
The animals, which look new, were actually collected during a stuffed animal donation drive at the school. There are hundreds of animals of every imaginable type, from bunnies to spider man, all donated by OKES students and staff. The tradition began as a way to give a hug to the survivors.
“It makes you feel good inside when you are giving the medallions or stuffed animals to the survivors,” Hailey said.