May is brain tumor awareness month and it took on special meaning for students at Lacey's Spring School in Morgan County. They recently lost one of their classmates to brain cancer.
Chase Cross passed away April 25, 2012, after a 14-month battle with pontine glioma, which is an extremely rare form of pediatric brain stem tumors with a survival rate of close to zero.
On a drizzly Monday morning, more than 300 Lacey's Spring students walked to raise awareness of brain cancer. They also walked to remember Chase.
"We thought this would be a healing thing for our staff and students as well, to do something," said Sherri Baker, one of Chase's fifth grade teachers at Lacey's Spring. "If Chase was here, he would love this."
Doctors first found an inoperable tumor on Chase's brain stem back in February 2011. A second inoperable tumor then appeared in January.
The school had already planned the walk before Chase's death. With his family's support, the staff added a memorial balloon release to the event.
"It was just like saying hi to Chase again," said Debbie Criscoe, another of Chase's fifth grade teachers, "to let him know that we're all doing okay and we know he's doing okay and that we're still thinking about him and that we're still mindful of the brain cancer and trying to do what we can to help other children."
Chase's mother, two brothers and aunt also came to the memorial event. Although they weren't ready to talk on camera, they said they were extremely appreciative and grateful to the school for the support of their family.
"It's hard, I know it was difficult for them to come today," said Baker, "but they're here and we just think it's great."
Chase only had 10 years on Earth, but in that short time, he left a big mark.
"He's taught me to be more patient because he certainly had to have a lot of that," said Baker. "And to be very loving and kind and I think I walked away with that working with him this year more than anything else."
"I guess the thing that I will remember the most is his happy disposition," said Criscoe. "The way he handled everything, he was just such a positive, cheerful, happy young man."
Lacey's Spring School plans to make the walk an annual event. Students and staff also plan to add a memorial plaque for Chase in the school's fifth grade stairwell.