First, cancer struck the 4-year-old son of a sixth-grade math teacher with a tumor near his liver. Next, came an eighth-grade social-studies teacher with a brain tumor. Then, it was an eighth-grade student with leukemia.
Cancer launched three blows to the solar plexus of Soddy-Daisy Middle School recently, but its student body is fighting back.
"We've been hit hard," said Soddy-Daisy Middle School principal Tobin Davidson, but "the kids contacted a number of our faculty members and said they wanted to do something."
To date, they have raised more than $5,000 to assist with the medical bills of Reese Martin, son of teacher Regennia Martin, and $1,000-$1,200 for the expenses of teacher Randy Rowan. Plans to help student Caitlin Puckett have just started since her recent diagnosis.
For Reese, diagnosed in late November, money has come from two in-school battle-ball tournaments, from the sale of green ribbon magnets, from the sale of wearing apparel with the boy's initials and from expenses originally planned for the girls soccer team's end-of-season party.
Teachers also donated the money they would have spent on a Christmas party, and the Soddy-Daisy High School Leadership team kicked in about $1,000.
In addition, said physical-education teacher Tom Marino, who is spearheading the school's fundraising efforts, individual students have done extra chores at home to earn a few dollars they can contribute.
Many students that age "wouldn't care about anybody else," he said, "but they've got each other's back. It's also great for the kids to learn a sense of community."
Davidson said he is grateful the students are thinking of others.
"I knew we had good students," he said, "but they've stepped up. They want to make sure [those suffering from illnesses] had what they needed."
For Rowan, another battle ball tournament was held last week. Individual sessions were held for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders.
The students love the sport, Marino said, "because it's team oriented and a lot of kids can play. It runs itself. It's a quick, easy fundraiser."
Rowan, who has taught at Soddy-Daisy Middle since the 2005-2006 school year, has been in the Hamilton County School system since 1992. He was diagnosed just after Christmas.
"He's a really, really special guy," said Marino.
The school's volleyball team, of which the teacher has been supportive, wore R's on their arm in a recent tournament to honor Rowan.
Seventh-grader Annisten Mann, a member of the team, said the students understand what is going on.
"They can't really do their jobs [when they're sick]," she said. "We just want to help out."
Handmade signs already hang everywhere on the school's brick walls. One, decorated with handprints and students well-wishes, says "Pray for Reese." Another, across the hall and down the same corridor, says, "Get Better Soon, Rowan Rocket."
They'll likely go up soon for Puckett, diagnosed only two weeks ago.
The eighth-grader, ironically, was the first person to buy a green ribbon magnet to support Reese Martin, Marino said.
A blood drive in May already is planned to support her, and other fundraisers are likely, according to Davidson.
"The kids are coming together with a big heart," he said. "They're coming together for people they love."