BLACKSVILLE — Brandi Bane recently celebrated her 38th birthday, and she doesn’t mind giving her age one bit.
That’s because she marked the day with chemotherapy — and not a birthday cake.
She’ll take it.
“I’m feeling pretty good,” said Bane, who is battling breast cancer. “I’m beating this thing.”
She’s bringing sturdy reinforcements to the fight: The entire student body of her alma mater, Clay-Battelle Jr.-Sr. High School.
The school in western Monongalia County stages a “Pink Out” for cancer awareness every year.
Students in the Leo Club and other organizations raise money by hosting raffles and walking laps around the school track in a Clay-Battelle version of the American Cancer Society “Relay for Life” walk.
C-B football players wear pink socks and other adornments under the Friday Night lights as part of the promotion.
Every year, Clay-Battelle picks a person from the community who was diagnosed with that dreaded disease, and every year, a portion of the proceeds it raises for cancer research goes to that person’s medical expenses.
This year’s recipient is Bane.
“I’m just overwhelmed by their kindness,” said the woman who works as a mail carrier with the U.S. Postal Service.
Nikki Mattingly, a Clay-Battelle teacher and C-B alumna, came up with the idea nine years ago.
She had just lost her beloved grandmother to breast cancer. They were close, and she knew the community — both the school and Blacksville — would link arms for the effort.
“We watch out for each other around here,” she said last week at the school.
“The idea was to show our kids the importance of paying it forward and being kind to others,” she said. “And cancer puts a shadow on every family.”
As Mattingly was talking at a table in the school cafeteria and commons area, interesting shadows were being cast on the tables and walls.
Sunlight was being filtered through the construction paper rib-bons of a unique art project in altruism.
A giant “Pink Out” tree, the creation of art teacher Jennifer Bowers and student Molly Simpson, is adorning the windows of the entrance area. For a donation, students could place a ribbon and write a message in honor of a loved who died of cancer.
Most of the ribbons on this day carried simple yearbook-styled declarations of faith and determination:
You can do it.
This year’s T-shirt designed by Mattingly — she does one every year — also carries a single-minded declaration: “Just Cure It.”
“That’s Clay-Battelle,” Principal David Cottrell said. “That’s our kids, and that’s our community.”
Like Mattingly and Bane, Cottrell is also a C-B graduate. So were his parents. They were high school sweethearts, in fact.
Last spring, his mother lost her fight with cancer right before graduation, but her son, the principal, was right there for the Class of 2018 during commencement activities. When they turned their tassels, he was there, too.
“She wouldn’t have expected any less,” he said.
Bane, meanwhile, is expecting to convene some sort of celebration when she turns 39 next year.
“I’m gonna do something,” she said, chuckling.
In the meantime, she’ll walk around with a full heart of love for her old high school and her hometown.
“So many people,” she said. “I can’t tell you how it feels to be on the receiving end of that.”
And like her friend, Mattingly, she too can look to her grandmother.
“She’s 91 years old. And she beat cancer. She’s a 16-year survivor.”
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