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Carolina Christian student leads the charge

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Relay For Life reaps benefits of Jessica Hartley's senior project

By Greg Summers

Maroon and white are the predominant colors at most Carolina Christian Academy basketball games as fans fill the school gym to root for the Cougars.

But on Friday’s home tilt against Hawthorne Christian Academy Hawks of Chester, school colors took a back seat to purple.

Why?

Led by Carolina Christian 12th grader Jessica Hartley, all the proceeds from ticket sales at the door and from a basketball game bake sale were for Relay For Life.

“I’d normally be wearing my CCA T-shirt, too” said Hartley, as she oversaw the fundraiser, which raised about $650 for cancer research and American Cancer Society programs.

Each year, the rising seniors at CCA are required to perform two community service projects, including an individual project and group project. They have to plan out their respective project, enlist help when help is needed and then execute it. Jessica said, her mom, Janet Huey, came up with the idea.

The goal, said school administrator Dr. Huey Mills, is to help students develop personal leadership skills. 

“I was very proud when Jessica came up with this idea,” Mills said. “When you look around this gym, I don’t think you find a single person who has not been impacted by cancer in some way. We want to see our students get involved in causes like this and broaden their horizons in the process.”

And just like Mills said, Jessica, 17, has a personal stake in the fight against cancer.

She said her grandfathers – Vick Metzler and Julius Bowers – are cancer survivors. And so is her mother, Janet Hartley.

That, Jessica said, proved to be the catalyst to help her break out of her shell.

“For me, this was kind of hard,” she said. “I’m pretty shy and don’t like talking to people.”

Jessica was somewhat surprised by the response she got when she asked others to bake goodies or help in other ways. She said last year, the CCA student body and Fellowship Bible Church family raised more than $4,000 for the Relay For Life. Based on the support it generated, Jessica is hoping the basketball game/bake sale can become an annual event at CCA. 

“I got a better reaction than I actually thought I would. I think everybody I asked did something to help,” Jessica said.

“It’s certainly has brought Jessica out of her comfort zone,” Janet said.

That comfort zone was thoroughly tested between the boys’ and girls’ games when Jessica picked up a public address microphone to recognize cancer survivors and cancer caregivers.

Jessica said the theme for the 2009 Lancaster County Relay For Life is heroes. She told the crowd that they didn’t have to look very far to find the ultimate role model.

“As Christians, our role model should be Jesus Christ,” she said.

Kimberly Gulledge, field manager of the American Cancer Society, said it’s important to enlist young people like Jessica in the fight against cancer.

“It’s awesome that a young person came up with this,” she said. “We need their help so we can keep making progress.”

Mills said Jessica should be proud for her effort. Based on the support it generated, Jessica is hoping the basketball game/bake sale can become an annual event at CCA. The stands were packed. 

“When you stop and think about it, this game has been a win-win all the way around,” Mills said. “Those who helped Jessica reached out to help someone else. The people who bought things from the bake sale are supporting a very worthwhile cause and getting something good and Jessica is learning to be a leader in the community.

“I’d say that’s a pretty good night, regardless of how the games come out,” Mills said.