ST. JUDE MATH-A-THON

Coordinator of the Year

 

Lisa Ballard, teacher at John F. Kennedy Middle School in Plainfield, Ill., was named the 2017 St. Jude Math-A-Thon Coordinator of the Year.

 

A quick quiz for you: A school’s fundraising goal is $25,000 per year. Over 10 years, that school raises $353,768. What is the average amount raised per year by that school?

It doesn’t take a math whiz to know that the school — in this case, John F. Kennedy Middle School in Plainfield, Ill. — shatters its fundraising goal for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital year after year.

Neither does it take a genius to understand why Lisa Ballard, 7th-grade math teacher at JFK, was chosen as the 2017 St. Jude Math-A-Thon Coordinator of the Year.

Held each January, an average of 800 students earn pledges for working math problems based on the school curriculum, though Ballard said they also babysit and shovel snow, among other activities, to help raise funds and awareness for St. Jude.

A group of five or six teachers visited and made greeting cards with the kids. We toured the hospital and met some patients and parents, and learned a lot. We brought that knowledge back and shared it with the rest of the staff at the school.

– Lisa Ballard, 2017 St. Jude Math-A-Thon Coordinator of the Year

 

Ballard is a 15-year veteran of the classroom and began coordinating the popular Math-A-Thon event the year before joining JFK 11 years ago. Shortly after beginning the program, she was able to visit St. Jude.

"A group of five or six teachers visited and made greeting cards with the kids," she said. "We toured the hospital and met some patients and parents, and learned a lot. We brought that knowledge back and shared it with the rest of the staff at the school."

 
 

That visit fueled her ambition to raise more than $1 million and help ensure that no family receives a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing or food.

 

But Ballard’s dedication doesn’t stop once the formulas are solved, and the last penny is counted. She’s returned to the hospital every year to connect with the kids and to reconnect to the St. Jude mission.

"My students find it fascinating that I’ve actually been there," she says. "I talk to them about some of the kids that I’ve met, and I tell them it’s one of the happiest places I’ve been. They look at me like I’m crazy, but I explain how happy the kids are because of all the things St. Jude provides for them because of what we help provide St. Jude."

 

That passion for St. Jude is not only contagious, it stays with students long after they leave JFK: “I’ve been doing it so long that I even have students who are now old enough to go down there on their own to visit the hospital and have started their own fundraising.”

JFK has ranked in the top three schools nationally for St. Jude Math-A-Thon fundraising for several years, which is a testament to Ballard’s success engaging students, parents, colleagues and administrators with the St. Jude mission: Finding cures. Saving children.®

When she heard that she had been named Math-A-Thon Coordinator of the Year, Ballard said, "I was in shock. But honestly, right away I thought of how great my colleagues are because it’s not just me doing this every year."

The teaching profession is a noble one with its share of challenges and obstacles. The rewards come in good grades, victorious hugs and graduation commencements. For those who push their lessons beyond the classroom, there is the reward of watching as their wards become responsible and empathetic adults.

For Ballard, the world-class care of children hundreds of miles away only adds to the sum of her students’ character.

"I feel like I can’t turn my back now," she says. "I like to go back, it just refreshes my views of what I’m doing and why I’m helping and why I participate every year."

St. Jude patient Kensley, age 1, brain tumor

 

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