Making a speech in front of her own principal would have been intimidating enough.
But 13-year-old Sydney Tune wanted to honor the memory of her friend Jordan DuPriest, who died in November after a valiant struggle with brain cancer.
Sydney channeled some of Jordan’s courage in order to make a presentation on Wednesday—before nearly 60 principals and school administrators in Spotsylvania County.
She told them she wanted to carry on Jordan’s efforts to raise money for the research of pediatric cancer, and she asked each of them to consider helping her cause.
“Me and my friends are willing to help you in any way we can,” she told them.
The administrators responded with applause at first, then rose to their feet.
“It took so much courage for her to stand up and do that,” said Sherri Steele, Courtland Elementary School principal.
She knew Jordan and Sydney when they went to school at Courtland.
“Jordan would be so proud,” Steele added. “She was always such an advocate for others, especially children.”
Jordan had anaplastic ependymoma, the third-most common brain cancer. During her two-year struggle with the disease, she worked hard to maintain straight A’s in the midst of surgeries, chemotherapy treatments and visits to specialists in other states.
One surgeon suggested she name her tumor so she’d know what she was fighting. She was studying American history at the time and called her cancer Cornwallis because she planned to beat it the way George Washington defeated the British general.
Members of the Daughters of the American Revolution were so impressed, they held a ceremony for her and gave her certificates of bravery.
“She obviously affected many people in this community,” said Lane Byrd, principal of Spotsylvania Middle School where Jordan was a student at the time of her death. “Jordan was a special kid, and she had some special friends.”
Sydney was flanked on Wednesday by fellow seventh-graders Aviva Clayman and Kylie Lynch. The three stood behind a yellow structure called Alex’s Lemonade Stand and filled glasses of drink for the principals to have with lunch.
Jordan’s mother, Kim, had done a lot of research and was dismayed by how much money went to marketing and executive salaries at some fund-raising organizations.
She and Jordan chose Alex’s Lemonade Stand because 90 percent of money raised goes to research of childhood cancers.
Sydney wanted to pick up the fundraising in Jordan’s memory and consulted the DuPriests for permission. Her parents, Kim and Justin, and little brother, Cody, provided a lot of help, Sydney said, including lending her the lemonade stand Justin DuPriest built.
Sydney plans to set it up at several school events in coming weeks. Her goal is to raise $8,000, enough to fund one month’s worth of research.
Courtland Elementary School is continuing an event that Jordan started—a hat day, when students can break school policy and wear a hat to school if they give a donation to Alex’s Lemonade Stand.
Sydney asked the principals at Wednesday’s meeting if they would join Courtland Elementary for a countywide hat day on March 25.
“I thought this would be a great day to get as many kids as possible involved,” Sydney said.
So far, Post Oak Middle School and Spotsylvania and Wilderness elementary schools plan to join the efforts. Spotsylvania Middle is having its own hat day today. Livingston Elementary is doing some sort of event to support the effort and Parkside Elementary students will donate $500 they collected in coins.
Sydney and her friends talked about Jordan as they worked the lemonade stand. They said she loved turtles and green things, and they thought it was cool that Alex’s Lemonade Stand is yellow, her favorite color.
Sydney and Jordan celebrated several birthdays together, and Sydney said it was hard for her to enjoy her 13th birthday, which was Feb. 6, knowing Jordan didn’t get to do the same.
Aviva said the group of friends got used to Jordan being away from school for extended periods of time when she was sick. It’s been more than three months since she died, and “now it’s really starting to feel like she’s not coming back,” Aviva said.
“The realization that we’re going to spend the rest of our lives without her is not fun,” Aviva said.
Those around her got quiet. Aviva then reached for her friends and pulled them into a group hug.
“We have each other,” she said.
Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425
MORE ABOUT PEDIATRIC CANCER
Sydney Tune pointed out in her speech to Spotsylvania County principals that it was a sad day on Nov. 18, 2013, when 12-year-old Jordan DuPriest died of brain cancer.
“But did you know that 249 other children passed away from cancer that day?” she asked. “Also on that day, 720 other children were diagnosed with cancer.”
Although Sydney’s efforts to raise money for research are in honor of her friend, “this is something that impacts all of us, even those who did not know Jordan.”
Sydney also mentioned that only 5 percent of the federal government’s funding of cancer research is dedicated to childhood cancer.
HOW TO HELP
Sydney Tune is participating in Alex’s Lemonade Stand’s War for Schools, a challenge to see how much money schools can raise for research of childhood cancer.
The event runs through April 12, but Sydney plans to continue her efforts until she meets her goal of $8,000. That’s enough to fund one month of research.
She plans to set up the stand at her school, Spotsylvania Middle, during dances, bingo night and a faculty–student basketball game.
She’s asked other schools in Spotsylvania County to hold a hat day on March 25. Students can break school policy and wear a hat to school that day, if they donate to the lemonade stand.
Sydney has undertaken the project in honor of her late friend, Jordan DuPriest, who was an ambassador for Alex’s Lemonade Stand before she died of brain cancer.
Jordan’s mother, Kim, said she was “humbled” by Sydney’s effort to share Jordan’s story with others. “It is just so inspiring to see a 13-year-old be so determined to make a difference.”
For more information, go to the website alexslemonade.org and search for Jordan DuPriest.
Donations can be sent to Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation for Childhood Cancer, 333 E. Lancaster Ave., #414, Wynnewood, PA 19096. Write “In memory of Jordan DuPriest” in the memo line.