Ringwood teacher’s aide fights breast cancer

Caption
(Monica Maschak – mmaschak@shawmedia.com)
Gayle Kempton smiles at a pumpkin that was signed with supportive messages and given to her by staff at Ringwood School. Kempton is the second teacher at the school to be diagnosed with breast cancer. To show support and raise funds for Kempton, the school sells G Force T-shirts.

RINGWOOD – Gayle Kempton is tired all the time.

The Ringwood School teacher’s aide was diagnosed with breast cancer in mid-April, and instead of working with an excitable bunch of kindergartners, she has spent the school year undergoing chemotherapy.

“I want to get back with the kids,” Kempton said. “I miss getting up and going to work. I miss feeling good.”

Despite her physical absence, Kempton is everywhere at the school in Ringwood.

Many of the staff members try to wear the black T-shirt emblazoned with a pink rocket, the school’s logo, and the phrase “G Force” at least once a week to keep Kempton in their thoughts, said Raven Davis, a second-grade teacher.

The shirts were sold as a fundraiser, and it’s not the only thing the staff has planned.

Davis has been working on a 5K, which is set for Saturday morning and already has raised more than $3,000. All the proceeds will go to Kempton to offset her medical expenses.

Kempton hopes to make it out to the 5K Saturday, but because it’s the weekend after her chemotherapy treatment, she’s not sure she’ll be up to it.

“We’re a very close-knit group here at Ringwood, and we’re definitely like a family,” Davis said. “It feels like, if one of our family members is hurt or sick or fighting something and they need help, then I feel like the least I can do is help in any way I can.”

This is the second time the school has rallied behind one of its staff members.

Lynn Schmidt, a speech pathologist who worked with pre-K and kindergarten students, died from an aggressive form of breast cancer in February 2010.

The staff sold bracelets and held bake sales, raising enough in donations to hire a cleaning woman to help out Schmidt’s husband, Patrick, and their two young sons.

Kempton thinks about Schmidt a lot, she said, although her form of cancer isn’t as aggressive.

They worked in the same wing but didn’t know each other very well, she said. Schmidt was diagnosed shortly after Kempton transferred to the school from Johnsburg Junior High School.

“You feel bad for all the people who had already gone through what she’d been through, all the people who supported her,” Kempton said. “And now it’s like, ‘Ah, now, they have to deal with this again.’ I felt bad for them, but it’s scary.”

To get through it all – the worries about missing so much work, the six to seven hours spent every three weeks receiving chemotherapy, the next-day shots that are painful and expensive, and the exhaustion that overtakes her for several days – Kempton relies on her sister, Chrissie Caster.

Caster, who lives in West Chester, Ohio, made it through cancer twice and is the one person Kempton can turn to who can relate to what she’s going through.

At times, it leaves her family feeling helpless, said her daughter, Melissa Kempton, 25, also of Johnsburg.

“I try to help, but it never feels like enough,” she said. “I see her always just so weak and tired. I mean, I try doing laundry and grocery shopping and cleaning, but there’s only so much I can do, and it still doesn’t make her feel better.”


About the 5K

A 5K Walk/Run is planned for 8 a.m. Oct. 27 at Ringwood School, 4700 School Road. All of the proceeds will go to Gayle Kempton, a teacher’s aide at the school who was diagnosed with breast cancer in April.

The cost to participate in the 5K is $25, and a 1-mile fun run costs $15. Those interested also may register the day of the event.

To register for the event, visit itsracetime.org.

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