The kids kept the secret for three weeks.
On the sly, Sherwood Heights Elementary students practiced a special song during recess and times when counselor Lisa Roberts was away getting cancer treatments. They planned to sing Martina McBride’s “I’m Gonna Love You Through It” to Roberts as a way to encourage her through the ordeal. The students spent part of each music class rehearsing the song.
Principal Theresa Owens instigated the idea. The administrator often encourages the children to sing. She herself sings every morning during announcements.
“I firmly believe singing builds community,” she said.
So it seemed the perfect way to uplift Roberts, who has breast cancer. They would sing their support.
On Thursday, it was showtime.
The school’s 500 students quietly filed into the school gym and waited on the bleachers in hushed expectation. Owens’ guitar sat at the ready. Someone was dispatched to get Roberts.
“They told me a student was having a meltdown,” Roberts said later that day with a smile.
The child development specialist, who strode into the gym expecting to find a child in distress, looked momentarily stunned as she took in the scene. Owens directed her to a row of folding chairs where members of her family, including husband and police chief Stuart Roberts, sat waiting for her.
“We love you and want you to know we’ve got your back,” Owens told her into a microphone.
Roberts smiled as fourth and fifth graders sang the first verse. As they got to the chorus, the younger students joined in.
“When you’re weak, I’ll be strong
When you let go, I’ll hold on
When you need to cry, I swear
That I’ll be there to dry your eyes
When you feel lost and scared to death,
Like you can’t take one more step
Just take my hand, together we can do it
I’m gonna love you through it.”
As they sang, they waved daffodils, which they would later give Roberts. After the song came a video featuring individual shots of children holding handwritten messages for their counselor. The sentiments melded one into another.
“You are a rock star,” said one.
“You are brave.”
“You are powerful.”
“You are strong.”
“You are loved.”
“We believe in you.”
Roberts soaked in the love. As students filed out of the gym, Roberts gave them hugs. When they had gone, Roberts reflected on the three weeks since chemo started. She said the students have supported her with encouragement and thoughtful gifts. One day, four siblings pooled their money and bought flowers. On another, a boy brought her his favorite toy car.
“Every day has had silver linings,” she said. “The kids have been so sweet.”
Contact Kathy Aney at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-966-0810.