When every click of the TV remote and every turn of the radio dial brings another gush of love for some ego-bloated candidate or a snarling attack on his sitting-duck opponent, it may be hard to remember that there are bigger priorities in life than elections.
Things like, say, life itself.
God bless them, the kids havent forgotten. While candidates in Columbia County and Augusta-area races have collected nearly $2 million in campaign contributions, high school kids are collecting a dollar at a time to help a beloved teacher with cancer.
And it puts things in the right perspective to see little kids emptying their pockets just for the privilege of wearing a hat to school, with the money going to help a little girl who had to get a new liver.
Think these school kids are raptly watching TV to see how many more times Roy Barnes can claim to be both founder and savior of the HOPE scholarship? Nah. Theyre too busy making love links at Lakeside High, raising money for Cathy Ferko.
Ferko, who has taught at Lakeside since it opened in 1988, was diagnosed last year with breast cancer. Here it is Breast Cancer Aware-ness Month, and the Ferko family - husband Gary, and daughters Rachel, 12, and Reagan, 8 - is painfully aware that a member of their family is slipping away from them in the terminal comfort of hospice care.
Her students and co-workers are aware of the pain, too. Art teacher Emily Shipe painted a watercolor picture to auction off for Ferkos family. And in addition to their dollar-at-a-time love links, Lakeside students paid to dress down last week, and ordered piles of pizza from Papa Johns when the company offered to share 10 percent of the proceeds.
My pal Skeet Chambers, who draws cartoons for The News-Times, has offered to help raise money, too. While he doesnt know Ferko, he knows the pain: Skeet lost his first wife to cancer.
Little Ania Yarish also is on the minds of a lot of kids. Stevens Creek Elementary students, who attend class with the 10-month-olds big sisters, pitched in pennies at a time to help raise money to offset the thousands of dollars Stephen and Diana Yarish spend each month on drugs to prevent Anias body from rejecting her donated liver.
Other kids, most of whom dont know Ania or her sisters, are pitching in, too: Lakeside Middle is holding Treats for Ania Day Friday, while Riverside Elementary is planning its own hat day the following week.
There used to be a popular peacenik liberal-hippie "60s-era Volkswagen microbus bumper-sticker that said something about how great it would be if schools had all the money they needed, but the Air Force had to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber.
The sentiment is simplistic and way too nave, but lets look at it in a different vein:
Wouldnt it be nice if families being beaten down with cancer or coping with the massive expense of anti-rejection drugs could open their mailboxes every day to get $1,000 checks from pharmaceutical lobbyists or from the NRA Victory Fund?
Better still, what if politicians had to make paper chains or wear silly hats to get $1-at-a-time donations to fund their lying TV commercials?
Its something to think about: The very same day those kids at Riverside Elementary have their hat day with hopes of raising a few dollars at a time, a local group of Republicans is holding a big fund-raising shindig to collect thousand-dollar donations for a state candidate.
The day of these fund-raisers is Halloween, which is a fortuitous way of pointing out that while adults priorities have gotten pretty scary, our kids arent afraid to do the right thing.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to bpaschal@ newstimesonline.com, or call 863-6165, extension 106.)
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