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Shea Price Leaves her Mark on South Plainfield Middle School

Todd Cohen

Friday, December 6, 2013 • 4:00am

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ - For one week, South Plainfield Middle School turned into a rainbow for a very good cause.         

Shea Price, an eighth-grader at the school, organized a Cancer Awareness Week Nov. 18-22. More than half of the faculty and students wore a different color each day and learned various facts about the diseases.

The idea came after a council meeting in the township where Shea and her family accepted a proclamation declaring November as Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month in South Plainfield. On the car ride home with her mother Janet, Price discussed the idea of having her peers wear purple for an awareness day.

Price wasted no time posing the concept to her principal, Kevin Hajduk. Hajduk and Price ironed out all of the details, including posting posters about the week around the school, expanding the idea to other cancers and preparing morning announcements about each type of cancer to raise awareness about the diseases.

She went to the internet to find out the colors for some of the most prevalent cancers: Monday was white for lung cancer, Tuesday was light blue for stomach cancer, Wednesday was grey for brain cancer, Thursday was pink for breast cancer, and Friday was purple for pancreatic cancer.

“I always try to tell our students to do something to leave their mark in the middle school, and Shea did that,” Hajduk said. “She took it on herself to take a leadership role. She’s a really good kid, and I wasn’t surprised by that.”

Prior to the week, Shea and her family participated in a PurpleStride 5K Walk that raised over $250,000 for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (pancan.org), a national organization dedicated to advancing research, supporting patients and creating hope for those affected by the fourth leading cause of cancer death in the United States.

 “It felt good to do something to raise awareness about all of those cancers,” Price said. “If more people know about it, then more people can help.”

Shea lost her paternal grandfather and two other relatives to pancreatic cancer, while another family friend is currently fighting the disease that has a survival rate of just six percent. Her friend’s mother also died from breast cancer.

“She is aware of pancreatic cancer and knows how awful it can be,” said Shea’s father, Bill. “I was so proud that she followed through with the idea and she had such amazing support by the principal.”

Hajduk said he would like to have someone at the school carry the reigns and have another Cancer Awareness Week next year at the school.

 “It is so important to have students aware of these diseases, especially at a time when students’ brains are molding,” said Hajduk, who lost an uncle to pancreatic cancer and a member of his wife’s family to lung cancer. “Even if they don’t have a personal experience maybe a neighbor or friend has been affected. I’d love to continue this in the future. I hope Shea can instill this in the other kids to have them continue it.”

 Shea said she is considering bringing the idea to South Plainfield High School next year but is glad she had the chance to educate others and memorialize someone who meant a great deal to her.

 “I just did this for my grandfather,” she said. “I think he would be proud of me.”

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