Christmas came a few days early for Webb Elementary third-grade teacher Jennifer Pickens. On Wednesday, Dec. 18, members of McKinney Boyd’s varsity football team gathered at the Boyd athletic facility as head coach Don Drake presented Pickens with a check to assist the family in Picken’s battle with cancer.
Pickens was diagnosed with soft tissue sarcoma in her leg in August and began treatment almost immediately. She has not been able to return to work since. She will head to Houston’s MD Anderson Cancer Center in early January to begin seven weeks of radiation treatment. Pickens will be required to stay in a hotel while being treated Monday through Friday. She will be allowed to come home to McKinney on weekends.
The funds that were donated to Pickens were raised as part of the McKinney Boyd Athletics Community Project. The mission of the project is to assist McKinney residents who are dealing with cancer in ways that are meaningful by funding things other than medical bills, project founder Jennifer Santos said.
Drake said the football team has a philosophy — MTH, which stands for meaner, tougher, harder. “That’s what we believe in, that’s what we do, and that’s the philosophy that we believe in life,” said Drake, who is also Boyd’s campus athletic coordinator. “We believe that philosophy is gonna help you.”
An emotional Pickens accepted the check saying, “We (elementary teachers) teach our students the same thing, that you give back to the community and care about those people around you.” Struggling to choke back tears, she continued, “I never in a million years thought I would be in this situation, or be a recipient. But the one thing I’ve learned from my third-graders is that you’ve gotta have a positive attitude.”
“The money we presented to her on Wednesday will cover her week stay in Houston including her hotel, gas, and food,” Santos said. “And just in time for the holidays, which makes it even more special in the time of giving.”
“It’s a blessing that I don’t have to figure out where we are going to get the money (for my stay in Houston),” Pickens said. “I appreciate everything you’ve done for me.”
Drake said he felt that the football players who were there for the presentation felt a connection to the individual recipient of their donation.
“I told them Jennifer’s story and why we give, and putting a live person in front of them makes it more impactful,” Drake said.
Pickens was nominated to receive the funding by several teachers and families, including Boyd’s athletic trainer Gary Hutto and his wife Shannon.
The Boyd Athletic’s Community Project raises the majority of their funding at the annual 5K Let ’em Run race and at the ‘Purple Out’ football game in the fall.
Photos courtesy of Jennifer Santos