‘The Tree of Hope’ | SummitDaily.com

‘The Tree of Hope’

summit daily news
Summit County, CO Colorado
Summit Daily/Mark Fox

FRISCO ” One of Rachel Fitch’s favorite memories of her fourth-grade teacher is from last Christmas.

The teacher, Daira Hanschmidt, had been out of school battling ovarian cancer, but she made sure to come see her students at Frisco Elementary before the holiday.

“Everyone ran to hug her,” said Rachel with a smile.

That was just about five months before Hanschmidt died of the cancer she had fought since 2001. And although she is gone, this teacher, who Rachel described as fantastic, has certainly not been forgotten by the school staff and students who loved her dearly.

Recently, Rachel and her fifth-grade class organized “The Tree of Hope” in Hanschmidt’s honor and is working to raise money to help fight ovarian cancer.

“What I’m really trying to do is keep her memory alive,” Rachel said.

“The Tree of Hope” that sits at the front entrance of the school is covered in ornaments made by all the students at Frisco Elementary. Gingerbread men, snowmen, Santas and other ornaments decorate it, and with each, students put a message of hope, a memory of Hanschmidt or one of their dreams, Rachel explained.

Tuesday evening at the school’s Christmas concert, Rachel also made an announcement about her class’ goal of raising $250 for the HERA Women’s Cancer Foundation. If they reach that amount, the nonprofit organization that is aiding in the fight against ovarian cancer will fly a flag with Hanschmidt’s name at its Climb for Life event that raises awareness.

According to HERA, ovarian cancer is a serious and under-recognized threat to women’s health. It kills more women than all other gynecologic cancers combined and is the fourth leading cause of cancer death among women in the U.S.

This year, nearly 16,000 women will die from it and more than 25,000 will be diagnosed, according to the organization with a mission to stop the loss of mothers, daughters, sisters, grandmothers, aunts, wives, partners and girlfriends from ovarian cancer.

For the students who are now in fifth grade at Frisco Elementary, this deadly disease meant the loss of a great teacher. “They were all impacted by Mrs. Hanschmidt,” said Rachel’s mom, Gini Bradley, adding that as the entire class came together for “The Tree of Hope” and fundraiser, they had a way of remembering and honoring the teacher who meant so much to them.

The class’ current teacher, Peder Hansen, was impressed with the students and Rachel’s desire to put this together.

“I think it’s incredible that she’s thinking in that altruistic way,” Hansen said. “She’s really embodying what this season’s all about with giving, supporting and caring.”

In a letter mailed home to parents and staff by Hansen’s class it says, “Ms. Hanschmidt taught us all to believe in our hopes and dreams. Please help us keep her hopes alive.”

Anyone interested in making a donation can stop by the elementary school to add to the collection jar. Checks made out to the HERA Women’s Cancer Foundation can also be mailed to the school at P.O. Box 4820, Frisco, CO 80443.

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