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Crockett Intermediate School sixth grader Madeline Petrikas officially opened the first informational kiosk for Project HOPE in a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday as part of National Cancer Prevention Month.
“I’ve gotten a lot of support in this community for this project, so I’m really thankful for that as well and I hope a lot of cancer patients enjoy it,” she said.
The kiosk is a sort of flat-topped pyramid with each of its four sides color coded: Yellow deals with childhood cancer, purple with general information, orange for skin cancer and pink for breast cancer.
Project HOPE, or Helping Others Prepare Effectively for cancer, is the result of a Future Problem Solvers community service project Madeline put together after learning teacher Cecilia Lester had been diagnosed with second-stage breast cancer.
“I was diagnosed July 8, I believe, and then we started school the 26th of August and…within a week of school starting, she was already on it,’ Lester said. “She came in, right before I started my treatments, and she said, ‘We’re going to make this work. We’re going to do this all together,’ and she has been one of my biggest supporters.”
Madeline said Lester told her one of the hardest things in the wake of her diagnosis was trying to find information.
“You can Google it, but there are so many hits,” Madeline said. “She said she couldn’t figure out how to tell her kids. That’s when I decided to do a children’s book.”
Madeline’s father, oncologist Dr. James Petrikas, expressed pride in her accomplishments.
“This was her idea from the beginning,” he said. “I’m proud of the fact that she was able to use resources and support of the community, because after all, it’s for the community.”
A great deal of that support came from Paris Lumber and Paris High School shop teacher Kyle Wright.
“I couldn’t have done it without them,” Madeline said. “It’s been really great to see it come together.”
The project aims to provide support not only for cancer patients, but for their loved ones as well. That includes brochures (including those designed by Madeline herself), books and support groups for children impacted by cancer and other life-changing ailments.
Madeline is also working on a children’s book on the ABCs of the emotions in dealing with cancer. Each letter of the alphabet covers a different aspect of the disease, including E for “evil” and X for “x-ray.”
As part of her project, Madeline had to make a presentation to the library board to give them options for her informational display. The board selected the wooden kiosk.
“She’s an avid reader,” said Debb Fleming, a sixth-grade Socrates teacher and Crockett’s Future Problem Solving coach. “She spends a lot of time here. She came up with the idea to put a flat top on it to display books of interest.”
Madeline has been an educational force at the school, Lester said. It’s difficult to know what students may be dealing with cancer in the family who don’t know how to deal with it or express their feelings, she said.
“Her personality has made it an open subject, which is pretty awesome,” Lester said. “She has eased the kids into this, eased them into everything, and they’re not afraid to ask me what’s going on. ‘Why did you lose your hair?’, ‘Why do your fingernails look like that?’, ‘When is your surgery?’ I’ve got kids who won’t even let me carry my purse down the hall, because they think that I’m carrying too much, or they won’t let me erase the board. Madeline has just really educated a lot of people that she doesn’t think that she’s touched.”
eParisExtra story by Courtney McNeal & Jeff Parish