Proud as she is of her school, come September, the pull of family motivates Tatum, an 11th grader, to trade the school’s white, blue and silver for gold, the color of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.
Tatum chairs Team Up Kansas City, the local version of the Team Up For St. Jude program which gives high school students the opportunity to support St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital through team sport activities and events.
Now in its second year, Team Up Kansas City — with 12 participating (and usually rival) high schools — has seen campaigns centered around varsity football games, soccer matches, ping-pong tournaments and volleyball games. Last year’s events raised $36,000; sponsorships and T-shirt sales helped push this year’s total to $55,000.
Coordinating so many events across the city is a lot of work, but 16-year-old Tatum says it’s worth it: “It’s my chance to give back to St. Jude.”
Tatum’s younger brother, Clayton, was diagnosed with a brain tumor at 7 months old and referred to St. Jude, where his cancer was treated with chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
“We have done a thousand-plus hours of rehabilitative therapies and services and so forth,” says the siblings’ mother, Kristin. “Life might be tougher, it might not be what we expected, but we could have had a very different outcome. In our feeling of thankfulness, we just want to make sure that our kids give back.”
September begins with students tying gold ribbons to trees. It’s part of an awareness campaign that extends beyond the Team Up schools and into the city, where gold T-shirts are popular throughout the month.
The effort takes dedication, passion and a small army, and as a mother, Kristin appreciates the value of the students themselves leading Team Up. “There’s so much power in that younger generation and they’re so capable,” she says. “Give them something to be passionate about and they just run with it.”