South goes gold to support the Gregory family

Running in a cross country race, freshman Luke Gregory smiles toward the finish line.

Photo courtesy of Kim Kiraly

Running in a cross country race, freshman Luke Gregory smiles toward the finish line.

Caroline O'Shaughnessy and Ellie Ruos

In 2017, roughly 15,270 children and adolescents up to the age of 19 will be diagnosed with some form of pediatric cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute. This year, when freshman Luke Gregory walked through the doors of South, fighting his own battle with a rare type of cancer called Rhabdomyosarcoma, many clubs and sports teams at South came together to support Gregory and help spread awareness for the thousands of other children being affected by the disease.

According to junior Kate Gregory, Luke’s older sister, Luke was diagnosed last August. The family noticed a mass in Luke’s foot, so they had a biopsy performed, which led to his formal diagnosis. Kate says since Luke has been diagnosed, her and her family have worked to make sure he is comfortable.

“I guess just more of our time is spent working on making him feel better,” Kate said. “He’s in the hospital a lot or going to get treatment so we’re just always making sure he’s feeling okay after treatment.”

Luke explains that Kate had been nothing but supportive throughout this experience and she continues to brighten his spirits.

“She’s been very kind and she’s made me things like smoothies and brought them to the hospital,” Luke said. “Laughing with her definitely distracts me when I’m not feeling well.”

Luke used to go to the hospital once every three weeks for treatment, along with chemotherapy for the weeks in between. Now, he does chemotherapy once a week in the local clinic, according to Kate. Through Luke’s journey, Kate believes her family has been able to remain positive because of the immense support of the community.

“I’d say a lot of [staying positive] has been support from the community because everyone has really stood with us and tried to make sure they’re doing everything they can to help Luke with his journey,” Kate said.  “It’s really easy to stay positive when there are so many people backing you.”

Luke is also able to remain optimistic throughout his journey because he believes if you think positively then there will be a better chance of a positive outcome.

“One of the biggest reasons I have remained positive is from having such supportive friends, community and family,” Luke said. “People that don’t even know me have said ‘Hi’ to me and told me they are praying for me and thinking about me all of the time and they hope I continue to do well.”

Many of Luke’s friends also find him to be inspiring due to his outlook on life and his attitude. According to freshman Maggie Ryan, she has known Luke since sixth grade and they are close friends.

“One thing Luke has taught me is how to make the best out of a bad situation and stay positive,” Ryan said. “He has taught me how to be a better person.”

Cal’s Angels is an organization that does funding and research for pediatric cancer. With their program called “Go Gold,” the foundation provides schools’ varsity athletic teams with gold attire (the color associated with pediatric cancer) to wear in order to spread awareness on the subject. Kate was inspired to bring “Go Gold” to South because of her brother, as well as other students affected by pediatric cancer.

“It was inspired by my brother but at the same time it really is affecting a lot of people in the school,” Kate said. “So many people in the school  have had a family member go through treatment, or their sibling, or even [they] themselves have gone through some sort of pediatric cancer treatment. It’s important that we raise awareness for all those people and not just my brother.”

The fall sports teams at South have participated in many ways to support Cal’s Angels, including cheerleaders wearing gold bows and field hockey and volleyball teams wearing gold socks. According to Kate, schools are not required to do funding. However, most teams stepped up and organized their own fundraising events such as auctions and bake sales. When Luke found out about the “Go Gold” efforts, he was very excited that pediatric cancer was getting more recognition throughout the community.

Luke said, “When my sister started emailing coaches to organize it over the summer, I thought it was a great idea because cancer affects a lot of kids and not many people know much about it. [Pediatric cancer] definitely needs more awareness and funding for research.”

In addition to Cal’s Angels providing school sports teams with gold attire, others in the Glenview community have offered help spreading awareness. According to Kate, a family friend close to Luke provided 2,000 gold ribbons to adorn the trees of Glenview.

Kim Kiraly, sponsor of Girls’ Letter Club, has worked closely with the Gregory family to help further raise awareness at GBS. According to Kiraly, Kate reached out to her in the Spring of 2017 with the idea of involving Girls’ Letter Club in the “Go Gold” campaign. Kiraly said Kate and her ideas fit seamlessly into the club, considering Girls’ Letter Club has traditionally been involved in spreading awareness for pediatric cancer.

“It just seemed like a natural fit for Girls’ Letter Club to partner with Cal’s Angels and partner with Kate and her “Go Gold” initiative,” Kiraly said. “It allowed all of us to work together to make a larger, successful [Go Gold] event.”

Girls’ Letter Club was responsible for organizing all of the gold attire provided by Cal’s Angels, then distributing it to South’s Fall sports teams for games and the Fall Sports Assembly. They also were encouraged to organize separate fundraising events within their own teams. Kiraly believes Girls’ Letter Club, along with all athletes, should strive to go beyond themselves and help out the community.

“Athletes are already building so much character and developing character through athletics,” Kiraly said. “Part of [building character] is your ability to go beyond yourself and do something for your greater community.”

According to Kiraly, the money raised at GBS this fall for pediatric cancer cycles back into the Chicagoland area to fund research, grant children with cancer once in a lifetime wishes or support families who are struggling. Kiraly says it’s powerful to know that the work put in by students at GBS can directly affect other students struggling with the effects of pediatric cancer. Kiraly believes more people are touched by cancer than we realize, so it’s important to have support for those people. She hopes students at South affected by pediatric cancer can look to the school as a safe and open space to be supported by their fellow peers.

“When people feel comfortable with talking about [pediatric cancer] or knowing that people care, that goes a really long way,” Kiraly said. “For students to know that this is a safe place and a supportive community, at the end of the day that’s the best gift you can have as a teacher—to know that your students feel safe and they feel supported because cancer is not easy to process or deal with. For them to know that this is a place they come and find some refuge is really important to us as faculty.”

Luke wants people to understand “Go Gold” is not only for him. He is one of many with cancer and his family is one of many being affected by this disease. He wants others to know that they are not fighting the battle alone.

“I’m not the only kid at GBS who has had cancer and Kate’s not the only one with a sibling with cancer,” Luke said. “I hope going gold showed that GBS cares about them too.”