Benet Academy, Illinois students support classmate with leukemia

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Administrative building of Benet Academy

Students at Benet Academy in Lisle, Illinois, United States, have raised money and offered support for Jenna McKeown, a classmate who was recently diagnosed with leukemia.

Miss McKeown, a 17-year-old senior from Naperville, was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia on October 28 after she went to the doctor's office with a sore throat and extreme fatigue. She has just finished her first ten-day round of induction chemotherapy at the University of Chicago Comer Children's Hospital.

News of the diagnosis spread quickly among the student body with the help of social networking sites such as Facebook. Students formed an online support group and set up a Mass to be held the next morning at 7:15 am in the school's chapel. Students, teachers, and parents attended the service.

These activities are to show support and solidarity for Jenna through our thoughts and prayers.

—Michael Macaluso, teacher

Within twelve hours of diagnosis, friends made plans to supply enough meals to the McKeown family for the next three months. One thousand orange lapel ribbons were made the following weekend and passed out to students to wear the Monday following Miss McKeown's diagnosis. One senior pupil filmed a video of messages from teachers and students, and several students shaved their heads to show support for their classmate. Kyle Marinko, President of Student Government, announced that orange Livestrong-type gel bracelets are to be sold during the school's annual Christmas Drive fundraiser. "These activities are to show support and solidarity for Jenna through our thoughts and prayers," said Michael Macaluso, an English teacher and moderator of Student Government.

Miss McKeown's illness is an aggressive, yet curable, form of leukemia; she needs to have two more rounds of chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant in January. Despite this, she remains positive, adopting the slogan "Be positive!" when it coincidentally matched her blood type, B+. In an effort to replenish the supplies needed for this treatment and support other patients in need of transplants, friends and family will staff a blood drive and register people for the National Marrow Donor Program tomorrow at Benet Academy.