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  • New Tech Academy student Reagan Swinford, right, poses with classmates Kara Gerber, left, and Leslie Alter in the fundraising T-shirts designed to support Swinford's fight against cancer. (Cathie Rowand | The Journal Gazette)

Friday, December 15, 2017 1:00 am

New Tech rallies behind student's cancer fight

'Reagan Strong' T-shirts help charities

ASHLEY SLOBODA | The Journal Gazette

The Fort Wayne Community Schools Clothing Bank received a donation that – with the recent snow and cold – couldn't have come at a better time.

What's more, the $1,252 contribution was the result of New Tech Academy students rallying behind a classmate fighting her fourth bout of cancer.

Senior Leslie Alter, junior Kara Gerber and junior Reagan Swinford, who has neuroblastoma, presented the oversized check for the cause at the FWCS Family and Community Engagement Center on Thursday afternoon.

Then they went to the Ronald McDonald House at Parkview Regional Medical Center to do the same.

Combined, the donations totaled $2,504.

The generosity is, New Tech Director Emily Oberlin said, “a great example of what our kids can do.”

Students at New Tech Academy at Wayne High School raised the money by selling T-shirts showing support for Swinford, who was first diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a type of cancer, at age 5.

Her classmates were moved to do something, Alter said, because “at New Tech, we are a family.”

The shirts, which sold for $10 and $20, have the phrase “Fight Like a Girl” on the front, and “Reagan Strong” on the back. More than 400 were sold.

The effort surprised Swinford.

“Shirts? Why would they make shirts?” the 16-year-old said of her initial reaction.

She appreciated the support and the emailed photographs of students wearing the apparel, she said, noting she still looks at those pictures.

The proceeds were donated to the clothing bank and Ronald McDonald House at her request.

“It really is going to make a huge impact,” said Wendy Hoering, FWCS' families in transition coordinator.

So far this academic year, the clothing bank has served more than 1,400 students, or about 100 fewer than in the entire last school year, she said.

Children of all ages are served, she said, and the donations couldn't have come at a better time. People are phoning daily about needing coats, boots and other winter gear, she said.

Although the clothing bank accepts material donations – a collection bin is at Douglas Avenue and Barr Street – monetary donations help fulfill specific needs, such as unique sizes, Hoering said.

Some items are also best new, she added.

“Over $1,000 will buy a lot of socks and a lot of underwear,” Hoering told the teens.

asloboda@jg.net