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Goodwin participates in their 10th annual Relay for Life

W.B. Goodwin Elementary School is participating in the Relay For Life, sponsored by the American Cancer Society, for the tenth year in a row. The Goodwin school community has consistently raised enough money to be one of the top three fundraisers in the Charleston area and is one of a very few elementary schools in the Charleston County School District that participates consistently over time.

 Relay team members

COVID-19 has limited the way the Relay for Life is going to be held this year. There will be no large gatherings where teams lap the track. However, Goodwin will hold a mini relay in their car rider loop, lined with luminary bags in memory or honor of loved ones. The Goodwin Gators will join other Relay for Life teams in the area and place their luminaries around the traffic circle in Park Circle on May 7. The luminary candles will be lit at 7 p.m. 

 relay team members

Goodwin teacher Ylonda Nero-Anderson spearheaded the effort ten years ago as a way for the school to give back. She chose Relay for Life simply because it was a favorite charity of hers. Great effort goes into planning mini fundraising events throughout the school year, and co-worker Suzette Schiffiano assisted her. Schiffiano is now retired, but her dedication to Relay For Life is just as strong.


Nero-Anderson and Schiffiano are both cancer survivors. In 2014, Nero-Anderson was diagnosed with breast cancer, and Schiffiano was diagnosed in 2009 with leukemia.


“Now this fundraiser is even dearer to us,” said Schiffiano.

 relay team members

“Former Principal Diane Ross was very supportive when I came to her ten years ago with the idea,” said Nero-Anderson. “The first three years we participated, all we did is raised money and turn it in. In 2015, Goodwin assembled a team and attended the event at West Ashley High School. Co-workers, family, friends, and students joined the team. In 2016 we got creative and dressed around the theme of TuTu Cute for Cancer complete with tie-dyed shirts and tutus and won Best Dressed.”


Before the pandemic, the school raised about $5,000 each year, totaling an estimated $45,000. Families, staff, the community, and even students donated. They held events throughout the year, such as crowning a king and queen of the school, dollar dress-down days, loose coin donations, and the sale of luminary bags. This year they are relying solely on donations and bag sales. To make a donation or purchase a luminary bag, visit the Relay for Life website and search Goodwin Gators.


“Seeing those bags and the memorials is emotional if you have any ties to cancer at all,” said Schiffiano. “When you see a family member’s name, it’s hard not to cry and even harder not to cry for yourself as a survivor.”


While the world faced a pandemic, cancer did not sleep. Fundraising has been slow for the school, but Nero-Anderson and Schiffiano are not giving up hope.


“All the money raised goes to the Cancer Society, and the benefits that come from that include rides to doctor or therapy appointments, a plethora of assistance to patients and families, and research,” said Schiffiano. “Cancer has gone by the wayside because of COVID-19. I have all the empathy in the world for COVID-19 victims, but we can’t turn our back on cancer.”


“We appreciate the response we’ve gotten so far,” said Nero-Anderson. “We could not do this without the support of our faculty, families, and current Principal Natasha Jones.”


Principal Jones is proud of the efforts of the school community over the years, and especially Nero-Anderson and Schiffiano.


“It is wonderful that they have created an opportunity to join forces with a team that is so passionate about their cause,” said Jones. “We recently lost a valued member of our team to cancer, and many of us have been personally touched by cancer in some way. We can achieve great things when we work together for a good cause.”


Nero-Anderson encourages other schools in the district to consider fundraising for Relay for Life.


“It is a great event and way to include students in fun activities all year,” said Nero-Anderson. “I am happy to work with any school to get started.’


Schiffiano added that it is also an opportunity to make children aware of giving.


“Through our various activities, we’re making children aware of charity, and they made their donations with pride,” said Schiffiano. “They also learned the facts about cancer.”


“I’m proud of our Gator family,” said Goodwin teacher Mary Stansell. “We strive to create a nurturing environment, and supporting Relay for Life is one way we show it.”


For more information about the Goodwin Gators Relay For Life Team, contact Principal Natasha Jones at (843) 767-5911.