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School builds special float for cancer-stricken boy

Valerie Davis rides float with son Benjamin.Seven-year-old cancer survivor Benjamin Davis was the grand marshal of the 2011 Baker County Lighted Christmas Parade on December 3.

Benjamin, along with his mother Valerie Davis, rode on a special float created just for him by the PreK/Kindergarten Center where he is a student.

“It was so wonderful,” Ms. Davis said earlier this week. “Finding out Ben was to be the Grand Marshal and then having the PreK Center build a float to celebrate his blanket project. I was so impressed at how everyone down there pulled together to do this.

“Benjamin loved it. His favorite part of the float was the lights. And when he saw the blankets he said, ‘Mom! We got even more!”’

Benjamin was diagnosed with cancer last spring and immediately began chemotherapy treatments that conclude December 23. According to his family, doctors have recently given him a “cancer free” report.

The young man, with help from family and friends, launched a community blanket drive earlier in the fall. His goal is to collect blankets this Christmas for the children on the oncology wards at Wolfson Children’s Hospital and Nemours Children’s Clinic where he has been a patient.

The Davis family says the response from businesses, schools, churches and individuals in the community has been more than they could have imagined.

With the help of guidance counselor Becky Nix who acted as coordinator, the PreK Center began collecting blankets weeks ago for the cause and to date has accumulated more than 200.

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Jr. ROTC: ‘more than a uniform’

Jr. ROTC cadets (from left) Michael Kuster, Randall Johns, Ashli Knapp and Scott Burkhardt lower the flags in the high school court yard November 29.Jacksonville may be a big Navy town but the Air Force rules in Baker County. At least on the high school campus.

Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps has been a permanent fixture at Baker County High since 2005 and there’s every indication it will continue for years to come. The school board officially renewed the program, which currently has about 114 cadets enrolled, for a seventh year at its November 22 meeting .

“There’s a feeling of family in the corps that students respond to,” said school principal Tom Hill, “and they absolutely do enjoy doing the drills.”

Students get to demonstrate their precision marching and other ceremonial skills, not only on campus where they raise and lower the US flag every day, but throughout the county at various events, including football games, parades and other community activities.

“We’re extremely proud of those young men and women who participate in the JROTC program,” Superintendent Sherrie Raulerson said. “They participate in numerous civic functions.”

But there’s much more to it than looking sharp in a uniform, synchronized marching, giving crisp salutes and respectfully handling the American flag.
 
 

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Students help needy families at Thanksgiving

Middle school Beta Club officers (from left) treasurer Rachel Price, president Mary Elledge, vice president Brook Chambers, chaplain Colton Yeager and secretary Larry Morris with food drive collections. The middle school’s Beta Club was one of the many local organizations collecting and distributing food donations for local residents who might be feeling the economic squeeze this holiday season.

The Beta Club is an academic organization for students with excellent grades. Club members also involve themselves in humanitarian and school pride endeavors.

“It’s tough for many people right now,” Beta Club secretary Larry Morris said. “Maybe they had a job but have lost it. This helps ease the burden a little for families during Thanksgiving.”

Each year the club sponsors a holiday food drive that also functions as a competition. The class from each grade level collecting the most donations is rewarded with a pizza party.

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Fall special olympics at BCHS

Special education students from across the district gathered at the BCHS gym the morning of November 22 for the district’s fall special olympics games. Some 70 athletes competed in football and basketball drills and other events. Here’s a look at some of the athletes on hand that day:

From left: Cody Thatcher, 14, Hannah Rodgers, 14, Deanna Maxwell, 15, Emily Crews, 15, and Heather Wilkerson, 15, bow their heads in prayer during the opening ceremony.Haley McCullough, 12, doing a flag football drill.From left Chey Wheeler, Caroline Barber, Malissa Barber and Olivia Barber cheer on son and brother Garrett Barber (right) before the games.

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