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South Milwaukee students make cancer patients feel 'a little bit like Christmas' with custom care packages

Posted at 7:49 AM, Jun 14, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-16 12:21:01-04

MILWAUKEE — A South Milwaukee teacher is getting international recognition for doing good with the help of his students. Third graders at Rawson Elementary School are making boxes filled with letters of encouragement and art projects for cancer patients.

"So they don't feel sad," said Adrian.

This all started years ago when third grade teacher Bill Gaynor wanted to encourage a family friend battling cancer.

"I wanted to do something nice for her cause she just does something nice for everybody else all the time," Gaynor said.

His students at the time sent her letters. Every year since then writing letters has been part of Gaynor's curriculum. He taught his students to be kind by having them help make the boxes.

"It's amazing. It's just unbelievable," Gaynor said.

Gaynor paid for supplies and shipping out of his own pocket or from donations. His students have helped make about 130 boxes.

"Somebody else is having a worse day than they are and that's what it's all about making somebody else's day better," Gaynor said.

Thank you notes poured in.

"They get giddy when they see that they love those responses," Gaynor said.

Some even came in person to thank the students like Paula Pauley. She stopped in on her way home from chemo in November.

"She was talking to my kids and told them that she was really appreciative that they gave her this box," Gaynor said.

About a month later, Pauley passed away.

"They got it that she came to thank them for something that was important to her, and now they kind of see that full circle like they make it, send it out and they do something for somebody that they don't even expect any payment for," Gaynor said.

The class sent a box to Missouri, where Beth Schartner is battling breast cancer.

"It felt a little bit like Christmas. I just kept pulling them out and reading them and then there was a great letter from the teacher kind of explaining the project," Schartner said.

She loves the lesson the kids are learning and what the boxes represent.

"It made me feel really good that this project was there and that it was helping other survivors just smile and know that they had someone that cared about them," said Schartner.

Gaynor said he keeps up the project because it makes a difference.

"And because I get to see my kids know that they make a difference," said Gaynor.

The students simply said it feels good.

"They say thank you and they really loved it," third grader, Alexa, said.

Gaynor will be awarded the National Promising Practice Award for character development later this month.