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Community fundraises for drill team instructor
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Sitting on the top shelf of Lisa Smentek’s closet, there is a stack of shirts.
Shirts collected from years of fundraising events at the job she has held for the last 13 years. Each shirt represents the story of someone who has gone through hard times and been lifted up by their community.
The latest addition to that stack is donned with her name.
“I can’t even begin to think I’m in that same category of impact that those people have made,” Smentek said. “It’s very humbling to feel like I’m approaching that kind of a person. It’s kind of what you always want to be, but sometimes you just don’t know.”
Lisa Smentek, drill team instructor and dance teacher, was diagnosed with stage four metastatic breast cancer in November. To help with medical expenses, Student Council chose her as this year’s Love Week recipient.
Smentek found a lump on her breast in July 2016, but didn’t address it until November when a photographer at the Tallenette team photo shoot encouraged her to make an appointment. That week, despite a lifetime of exercise and good nutrition, she was admitted to the hospital and received her diagnosis.
“I was kind of angry at myself,” Smentek said. “What did I miss? How could this happen to me?”
Smentek’s cancer is labeled incurable, so her doctors are attempting to keep her tumors manageable through six rounds of chemo every three weeks. She began her fifth round this week. Even through the trials, Smentek said she is humbled by the outpouring of support she has received through friends, social media and Love Week.
“There’s a fervor of people wanting to reach out to you,” Smentek said. “It was amazing to hear people come and connect with [you] and let you know how important you are in their life. It’s kind of like you get the eulogy before you die.”
For the past 37 years, the school district has organized different events to raise money and garner attention for a community member in need. This year’s Love Week took place Feb. 13-17.
“We [wanted] the whole community to come together and be involved in helping a person in need,” senior class treasurer Katie Li said.
Previously, IB seniors have been in charge of the fundraiser, a process which typically started sometime in September. Student Council began preparation in January after months of deliberation within the school district on who would sponsor Love Week this year.
“Given the time that we’ve had, I think we made the best of it,” Student Council sponsor Jason Thompson said. “Anything like this is really busy, but that’s what Student Council is for.”
Love Week differs from other Student Council-sponsored events because it’s centered around a specific community member, rather than the school or community as a whole. While planning Love Week under a time crunch, Student Council still had to dedicate time to their regular events such as prom.
“We’re very fortunate that we have 100 people that come to Student Council so we [had] the resources to do it and make [Love Week] happen pretty quickly,” Thompson said.
Student Council officers have a class that allows them to do additional planning outside of their meetings. According to Li, when the officers first heard that they would be planning Love Week, they were excited at the challenge.
“We had [our whiteboard] completely filled by the end of one of our class days,” Li said. “It was really great seeing all of the ideas, picking things out and seeing everyone come together around a common cause.”
Student Council aimed to make the fundraising as far-reaching as possible. The main event was the districtwide $1 Donation Campaign which intended to collect a single dollar from each member of the community.
“[People] think that we just live this ostentatious, snotty, bigger-than-life, Texas mentality,” Smentek said. “I think this has been able to tell them something different about Allen: that they really are just a community of people that really love and care about people.”
Throughout it all, Smentek said she draws strength from the students she teaches and knowing that she can be an example to any person with hardships of their own.
“Feeling like I’m needed here and seeing all the energy from the students every day is as much healing power as what they’re putting in my veins,” Smentek said.