Holiday tradition helps St. Jude patients

DOWNEY - For the past five years, Andra Macomber, an English teacher at Downey High School, has encouraged her students to write letters to children in the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital every holiday season.Since its inception in 1962, St. Jude has significantly contributed to the astounding increase of cancer survivors. Only 4 percent of children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia survived in 1962; now the survival rate is at 94 percent for this disease, the most common type of cancer for children. According to Macomber, the birth of her son inspired her to contribute to St. Jude, a nonprofit organization that she firmly supports. Having a child of her own reaffirmed the fact that there are many families who are in desperate need to save lives. A blank greeting card designed by a sick child at St. Jude prompted Macomber to spread her efforts to the students in her classroom. "I feel it is important to reach out to others during the holiday season because far too often, we make the holidays about ourselves," said Macomber. "I wanted my students to learn a lesson in altruism during the holiday season and cheer up less fortunate kids who don't have the privilege of spending the holidays with their families. Then I got the teachers and staff involved, and some of them gave me cards and money that we could donate to the hospital." For students at Downey, these efforts are a reminder that Christmas is not just about receiving gifts - instead, it is a time to celebrate the blessings in our lives and to share joy with others. "There is a great importance in sharing the holiday spirit with those that are unfortunately in worse conditions than we are," said Marco Rivera, a student in Macomber's English 11 class. "In a world filled with materialism and superficiality, it is heartwarming to know about these kids that have been through so much and are the epitome of innocence and kindness. So in our time of holiday cheer, we should extend our happiness to the children of St. Jude. In doing so, hopefully we will learn a thing or two about the importance of hope." All it takes is one person's motivation to bring smiles to the faces of needy children. What started as a humble project in Macomber's classroom has inspired others to follow suit, and her work will certainly leave a lasting impression at Downey High School for years to come.

********** Published: December 16, 2010 - Volume 9 - Issue 35