Cora Neal motivated her pupils, fellow teachers and administrators at North Harlem Elementary School to raise money for Relay for Life.
Now, the school is continuing her legacy after cancer claimed the 47-year-old teacher's life last August.
North Harlem's Relay for Life team, which renamed itself Cora's Crusaders in honor of the late third-grade teacher, has nearly reached its goal of raising $8,000.
This school year, the team sold "Cruising with Cora" T-shirts, cookbooks and crafts. Pupils and staffers also raised money through school spirit events, said Kathy Holley, a first-grade teacher and co-captain of the team.
"I think her spirit has just driven us this year," Holley said.
During her illness, Neal continued to teach and contribute to Relay for Life.
Her loss has been a blow to the school, Principal Kirk Wright said.
"That's what makes this effort so bittersweet," he said. "We're doing Relay for Life this year without her and for her."
Teachers say it's what Neal would have wanted.
The subject of a school spirit event himself, Wright will walk 22 miles Friday from his Evans home to the school because the pupils raised their goal of $2,000.
North Harlem's teacher of the year for 2006-07, Neal joined Relay for Life after cancer killed her mother more than a decade ago. Holley, whose mother also lost her battle to cancer, said Neal has been missed by everyone at the school.
"Just to walk by her room just gives you chill bumps to know she's not there," Holley said.
Hardest hit by Neal's loss were her husband, John; daughter, Elizabeth, an eighth-grader at Harlem Middle; and son, Franklin, a fifth-grader at North Harlem.
John Neal said he is proud of the teachers and administrators for continuing his wife's work.
"It means a lot to myself and my family that they have picked up the ball, continued on and done that well," he said. "It's incredible."
The school is still seeking donations for this year's Harlem Relay event.
To purchase a cookbook or make a donation to Cora's Crusaders, call North Harlem Elementary at (706) 556-5997.
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