Eighth-graders in Thomas Panter’s homeroom began wearing pink shirts on Tuesday earlier this year to show solidarity with a student whose mother is battling breast cancer. Panter said that he’s seen other students deal with parents battling the disease, but this case was particularly serious.
“This kid is just a great kid and each Tuesday he has shown up wearing pink,” Panter said.
The teacher said he didn’t even notice that other kids were joining the student by wearing pink on Tuesdays. The student doesn’t want to be named because he is private.
During a parent-teacher conference in October, Kim Shoemaker, mother of one of the boy’s classmates, pointed it out to him.
“It was almost like a flashbulb went flashing in my brain,” Panter said. “When I went into the homeroom on Tuesday, I noticed that half the kids were wearing pink.”
Soon the entire class was wearing pink on Tuesdays. He remembers a Tuesday just before Thanksgiving when the student walked in and saw how much support he was getting.
“Across the board, it was a sea of pink,” he said. “He just let out a big smile. Nobody said a word. He just walked over and sat down.”
Shoemaker said Pink Tuesdays have grown to other parts of Acworth, with kids at Pickett’s Mill Elementary, where the mother with breast cancer has another child, also taking part.
“I’ll go to the grocery store and see a sea of pink,” Shoemaker said. “I’ll go to the track at Allatoona (High School) and you’ll see a sea of pink on Tuesdays. This woman touched a lot of lives.”
The support for the woman actually began with a “Caring Bridge,” in which her adult friends supported her by wearing pink, Shoemaker said. But Shoemaker’s son, Jonathan, along with another friend of the cancer patient’s son, decided to start wearing pink to school on Tuesdays. Soon, the woman’s son and others followed.
“I think he could probably use the help,” said Jonathan Shoemaker, 14. “I think it makes him feel good that other people know what he’s going through.”
The rest of the school has gotten involved by selling pink T-shirts for $7 each.
In addition, the Shoemakers are organizing a team for the It’s the Journey Walk, which raises money for breast cancer in October. This year, Jonathan joined his mother and 17-year-old sister in the walk. For the 2013 event, they already have a team of 15 teenagers lined up to participate.
Kim Shoemaker is a breast cancer survivor herself. She was diagnosed in March 2009 and finished treatment in April 2010.
Panter said the support for the student is a continuation of the work the school did in establishing a Georgia History and Character Month. Durham students and teachers were the impetus behind Gov Nathan Deal signing a law creating the month, which celebrates character and positive choices, earlier this year. The first Georgia History and Character Month was celebrated in September, but the positive attitudes of the students continue.
“Character — it’s something the kids hear on a daily basis,” said Panter, one of the teachers who worked on the history and character month. “The idea of compassion and helping each other has been pretty strong throughout our school.”
Panter said students are looking to help others.
“The kids will always surprise you,” he said. “They have big hearts and they need a chance. School’s not just about tests; it’s about helping the community.”