AUGUSTA---“I’m so grateful. The Harold Alfond Center for Cancer Care is something else I am thankful for because without the treatments I am still receiving, I wouldn’t be here.”
The words of Kevin Cullen, principal of St. Michael School in Augusta, were met with applause from students and staff in the gym of the school on Friday afternoon, December 13 (additional pictures below).
It was an overwhelming yet expected response from a school community that is moved by a man who has given them so much.
The assembly, attended by Bishop Robert P. Deeley, featured a beautiful performance by the school choir and a check presentation by the students to the Harold Alfond Center for Cancer Care in Augusta, the very facility where Mr. Cullen currently undergoes cancer treatments.
“We told the kids that every single person in America is affected by cancer, either to a family member, a close friend, or they may have it themselves,” said Denise Levesque, marketing director at St. Michael. “Here at St. Michael, they are all affected because of Mr. Cullen.”
The school held a “penny war” during the first week of December to raise money for the center, with many of silver coins and dollar bills joining the pennies among the donations. In addition, donation jars were placed at events like the school’s annual Christmas concert on December 5. The change kept adding up.
“When it was decided that the school would be raising money for the center in my name, my goal was $2,000,” said Mr. Cullen.
When the large ceremonial check was flipped by Mr. Cullen and Bishop Deeley, the grand total of $4,853.45 that appeared on it drew a round of thunderous applause.
“This is a fulfillment of part of our mission where we need to model strong faith through community outreach,” Mr. Cullen said to the students. “This is a wonderful thing you’ve done.”
“This is a wonderful way that you’ve shared yourself during the Christmas season,” added the bishop. “This will help sick people get more help. You’ve been very generous. God bless you all.”
The bishop and Mr. Cullen presented the check to Paul Stein, the chief operating officer for MaineGeneral of which the center is a part.
“I’m in awe. You don’t realize the difference this money can make for our center and the people in our community,” Stein told the students. “More than that, you have set an example of community helping community!”
The classroom competition was won by the fifth graders, who donated over $650 in change. The fifth graders will receive a pizza party and movie to celebrate their victory.
“Every day, all of the students brought in so much money because they knew it would help people,” said Kamryn, a St. Michael student. “We knew the good it would do.”
“It makes me feel very happy to help out like this,” said Charlie, another student. “To be able to help Mr. Cullen, it makes me feel good.”
Supporting charitable causes and holding service projects occurs on a daily and weekly basis at St. Michael, but this initiative was embraced in a different way. It hit home, both for the students and the man who inspires them.
“I love you all very much,” said Mr. Cullen.