Hospital visit inspires Louisiana Math-A-Thon coordinator

Like many Math-A-Thon coordinators, Jane Brock inherited her program from a previous teacher. Shortly after she moved to St. Cletus Elementary in Gretna, Louisiana, the call went out for a volunteer to take over the school’s Math-A-Thon program. For Brock there was no second thought.

“I had no hesitation in doing it,” says Brock. “When I found out about the program and what it benefited, there was no question in my mind it was something I should do.”

Brock says she grew up hearing her mother speak of the catholic St. Jude Thaddeus – the saint of hopeless causes. So to her it seemed natural to give her time for a hospital with the same name and mission.

Eleven years after beginning work in the Math-A-Thon program, Brock has raised more than $38,000 for the lifesaving research and treatment performed at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

She credits a recent volunteers' trip she took to the hospital for refreshing her passion for the program.

“I couldn’t be more excited to be a part of the program, especially after seeing the hospital and hearing first hand the stories of the patients,” Brock says. “It really drives home the reality that even our small part can make a big difference.”

Her hospital visit has also made her work more real, because now, when she receives a newsletter or calendar, she recognizes many of the faces from her time in Memphis.

“When you look at the faces of the children at St. Jude, and you hear the incredible stories of hope, you can’t help but want to do everything you can,” she says. “That’s all it takes.”

Brock’s Math-A-Thon programs include students in pre-K4 through eighth grade – ages that range from 4 to 14. To get the program started each year, Brock walks from class to class in the school, equipped with winners’ prizes to show off. She said one prize in particular seems to have the most impact on participation.

“Something about T-shirts really gets the kids motivated,” she says.

Brock also takes patient stories from the calendar she receives to emphasize why the program is so important and to use them as a reality check for her kids.

“I want to make sure the kids fully understand just what they’re working for,” she says. “It’s really nice to see the kids respond with a spirit of giving. Their empathy with the children at St. Jude really comes out.”

Aside from the important contribution to the hospital, Brock likes the way the program takes an important subject out of the classroom and reinforces it with practice that’s competitive and game-like.

“It really builds on the skills we’re trying to teach in a fun setting that the kids really get into,” she says.

Brock sets modest goals for her program – simply topping the previous year’s totals each year. However, it’s a goal she’s been able to easily exceed every year since she began.

“It feels good to know that what we’re doing is having a significant impact on helping kids survive cancer and have hope for a better future,” she says.


December 2003