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Lyme Central School students take ‘hats-on’ approach to fight cancer

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CHAUMONT — Lyme Central School students and members of the school community raised more than $2,000 for a kindergartner battling cancer by taking a “hats-on” approach.

“There were all sorts of hats — baseball caps, sports teams hats, cowboy hats, the silly hats with the antlers on them you see a lot during this time of year. They wore every kind of hat you could think of,” Lyme Central School Superintendent Karen M. Donahue said.

Students and staff paid a dollar for the privilege of breaking the school’s no-hat policy for the day Friday, with all funds going to help 5-year-old Mylee Blaha, who has leukemia, a cancer of the blood cells and bone marrow where high numbers of white blood cells are present.

The money was presented to Mylee’s older siblings during a special assembly at the end of the day.

“The students were very excited. I don’t think they thought they could hit that mark,” Mrs. Donahue said. She said some of the 330 students at Lyme Central brought in as much as $20 for Mylee.

Mylee’s mother, Jamie S. Blaha, said her daughter was very excited and ready to attend the assembly, but at the last minute was too ill to make it to the party.

“She was really excited. She got in the car and she was heartbroken she couldn’t see the assembly,” Mrs. Blaha said. Though Mylee couldn’t be at the assembly, Mrs. Blaha said, her daughter was happy the children at her school did such a nice thing for her.

The fundraiser was entirely planned and pulled off by the student council, which has members in grades seven through 12.

Mrs. Donahue said because Lyme Central is a small school district, people think of their community as more of a family. As a military family, the Blahas have health insurance, but Mrs. Blaha said the money will help with expenses insurance can’t cover.

“This is really going to help pay for gas. We’ve been driving to Syracuse so much, and sometimes spend $200 to $300 in gas a week,” Mrs. Blaha said.

Mylee’s kindergarten teacher, Peggy Brennan, said the little girl spent just about five weeks in her class before she received the diagnosis and had to be admitted to Golisano Children’s Hospital, Syracuse.

“You would have never guessed she was sick. She seemed to always be tired, which seems obvious in retrospect, but any new kindergarten student can feel wiped out with a new school schedule,” Mrs. Brennan said. “She had a low-grade fever no one could diagnose; then the test results came back and it all made sense.”

Mrs. Blaha said since her daughter’s diagnosis Oct. 8, she has undergone chemotherapy and is technically in remission. Mrs. Blaha said Mylee still has more treatments ahead to discourage recurrence. Since October, Mylee has learned a lot from books she gets at the hospital explaining her illness.

“Somehow at 5 she’s grasped it. She knows the baby white cells were taking over the big cells and she knows her hair will probably fall out,” Mrs. Blaha said. “She can’t completely write her alphabet, but she can explain leukemia to people who ask.”

As a military family, Mrs. Blaha said, she hadn’t expected the outpouring of support from community members who barely know her family.

“We don’t have family here, so it made it that much more special that this town adopted us as family,” Mrs. Blaha said.

Kelly S. Sanford, who also has children who attend Lyme Central, is helping to organize several additional fundraisers for Mylee, including Mylee Night on Jan. 17. The event will coincide with the Lyme varsity basketball game versus Sackets Harbor.

All proceeds from the game, including admission, concession sales and a 50/50 raffle, will go to help support Mylee’s treatment.

Mrs. Sanford said additional events are pending, including a youth basketball game in February and a bottle drive, and collection cans to be put at Wise Guys, Blue Heron and Crescent restaurant in Chaumont.

For more information or to learn how to get involved with fundraisers, call Mrs. Sanford at 778-2381.

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