Party with a purpose, Holy Heart hosts Relay for Life

Holy Heart of Mary High School in St. John's hosts Relay For Life cancer fundraiser, inspired by a student's father's brain cancer.

Students host Relay for Life in support of Jenna Hatcher's father, who has brain cancer

The first lap of Holy Heart's Relay for Life Thursday afternoon. (Alyson Samson/CBC)

Holy Heart of Mary High School in St. John's held a high school-sponsored Relay For Life, inspired by the father of a student who has brain cancer.

Jenna Hatcher is in Level 3 at Holy Heart, her father John was originally diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2011.

We're all here because cancer has touched our lives — and I'm no different.- Jenna Hatcher

"He's actually doing very well. He's doing a chemo treatment right now that we're hoping is going to work," she said.

​The goal of the event is to raise $25,000 for cancer research — as of late Thursday afternoon they were at approximately $22,000.

Thursday's opening ceremonies began with an address from Hatcher.

"We're all here because cancer has touched our lives — and I'm no different," she said.  

"I lost my grandfather last year to cancer as well, at the time my father was having his second brain surgery."

Her grandfather was diagnosed with esophageal and stomach cancer.

"Two months after his original diagnosis, my grandfather lost his battle to cancer, and I lost my best friend."

'You're going to help me with this'

Hatcher felt helpless but began fundraising and organizing the relay as a way to do something in support of her father's battle.

"The relay provides hope and gives me a feeling that my dad is going to battle through this cancer," she said.

Jenna Hatcher with her teacher Julie Parsons at Holy Heart's Relay for Life. (Alyson Samson/CBC)

The students spent two months organizing the 'party with a purpose' and fundraising for the Relay for Life event.

"I picked a bunch of my close friends, people who I thought were student leaders within our school and I rallied them together and said you're going to help me with this," Hatcher said.

Julie Parsons is a teacher at Holy Heart who worked with the students to organize the event.

"We were looking into doing a community event and Relay for Life came up and Jenna was one of our events committee [members] and she looked into it and did some research, and we got on board."

Parsons says the Hatchers' story has touched the entire school community, and brought them together for support.

"Jenna's family has struggled since her dad was diagnosed with cancer and all of Jenna's friends have been huge in supporting her. It's been amazing to watch all the school and especially her really close friends rally around her," said Parsons.

Donations will be accepted online and at the school up to a month after Thursday's event.

About the Author

Alyson Samson

Alyson Samson is a journalist working with the CBC in Newfoundland and Labrador.