GK Faculty Member Battling Breast Cancer Surprised With $2,600 Check From Staff, Students

Lori Stone, bottom center, sits surrounded by support from staff at Genoa Elementary School and across the district.

When Lori Stone, an aide at Genoa Elementary School, stepped into the school’s gymnasium for an assembly Thursday, she wasn’t exactly sure what to expect.

A 13-year veteran of the Genoa-Kingston school district, Stone was diagnosed with breast cancer in April and began undergoing chemotherapy.

Since returning to school in the fall, she knew her school had been raising money to support people with cancer — an effort largely spearheaded by fellow GES aide Tina Kuhn — though Stone never expected that the target of all that fundraising was actually her and her family.

But that’s exactly what happened: On Thursday, before a crowd filled with adoring students, staff and Stone’s own daughters and grandson, Stone was presented with a surprise giant, pink $2,600 check — money raised through the sales of 97 “Stone Strong” T-shirts and 903 pink bracelets, donation buckets, cash, and even included one student’s birthday money for a trip to Disney World.

“I cannot believe how generous the people of Genoa are,” Stone said. “I was so overwhelmed and just taken back, because I never expected that.”

The idea came to Kuhn after speaking with Stone at the start of the school year about how to address her diagnosis with her students.

In reality, Kuhn, students and community members knew they were raising money to help out one of their own.

“When the school year started, she had the bandana on and she’d said, ‘Is it OK to tell the kids that I have [cancer]?’ and I said, ‘Of course, it’s whatever you’re comfortable with,’” Kuhn said. “That’s when I talked to her about doing a fundraiser for cancer in her honor, and she said normally she wouldn’t want the attention, but agreed to it since it was for a good cause — not knowing that everything we were collecting was really for her.”

“The magnitude of it, she had no idea.”

Tina Kuhn (left) and Lori Stone (right).

Kuhn quickly set out to begin ordering pink bracelets that she could sell for a dollar a piece.

“The first time I ordered I thought I’d order 360 of them — I actually ended up ordering 900 of them,” Kuhn said.

She also sold just under 100 “Stone Strong” T-shirts to staff across the district, including to faculty at different schools who didn’t know Stone, but wanted to show solidarity and support.

“I didn’t realize that people from the high school bought the T-shirts, because I don’t know a lot of people there, and it’s just wonderful how they just support you,” Stone said. “I mean, what beautiful people. At the elementary school and the other schools, they’re just wonderful people. I know the kids, but I don’t know the parents, so that’s just so meaningful that everyone did this.”

Kuhn said the money is meant to help Stone in any way she sees fit, be it paying medical bills, covering everyday expenses, or to try and relax and have fun.

“We told her it’s for her to pay hospital bills, dinner, gas, whatever she wants to do,” Kuhn said. “Even a pampering of herself and her daughters for the day, whatever it may be, we just wanted her to keep it for herself and her family.”

Principal John Francis told students anxiously awaiting Stone’s surprise Thursday that he was proud of them for showing strong character by helping Stone, even with no promise of anything in return.

“Our school’s support for Mrs. Stone was a simple act of kindness,” said Francis said. “There were no competitions or incentives to see what grade level could raise the most money. GES and the GK community care and it’s reflected in their support. Simply stated: Kindness and caring matter, and at the heart of everything that’s what is truly important. Kindness was abundantly displayed today thanks to the efforts of Mrs. Kuhn, our students, our staff, and the rest of the GK community.”

Kuhn reiterated Francis’ point, adding that students participated in the fundraising simply because they wanted to do something good for someone else.

“The kids all did this out of the kindness of their hearts,” Kuhn said. “Usually we try to incentivize them with prizes. Well, this time, it was all done by kindness, they got nothing by bringing in the money or buying bracelets, they just did it because it was for a good cause and someone that works here.”

“It just symbolizes how this is a small district, and everybody cares for each other,” she added. “Everybody’s there to help out as much as they can, in any way they can.”

Supt. Brent O’Daniell, who was in attendance at Genoa Elementary Thursday for the big reveal, said he was happy, but not surprised, by the kind actions of the community in their support for Stone.

“There was so much love in that gym today,” Supt. Brent O’Daniell said. “It was a wonderful representation of what this community is all about, and was an amazing tribute to this year’s school theme, Creating Culture. I couldn’t be more proud of our school family.”

Stone said as much love as she felt Thursday, she wants the community to know the feeling is mutual, particularly toward her friend and co-worker, Kuhn.

“I want people to know how wonderful Tina Kuhn is,” Stone said.

While she still will undergo surgery and radiation treatment in the upcoming future, Stone said she hopes to take her experience and somehow pay it forward, helping out others in need when she can.

She said she’s grateful that she’s not yet had to take time away from work, because it’s the smile, grit, determination and kindness of her students and coworkers who continue to inspire and motivate her each day.

“I’m just overwhelmed, and thankful and blessed,” Stone said. “I don’t know how to thank these people.”

Check out photos of the assembly below.