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EMS votes to help three of its own
Zach Baranowski
Zach Baranowski

It is not uncommon to hear an employee of the Effingham County School System refer to his or her “school family” when discussing something going on at that school.

Administrators, teachers, secretaries, custodians and lunchroom staff not only form strong bonds among themselves, but with their students as well.  These “family bonds” become even stronger when a staff member’s or student’s health is threatened — especially when cancer is involved.

This scenario is all too familiar this year for the Ebenezer Middle School family.  Last winter, three students at EMS were diagnosed with tumors. Zach Baranowski, a sixth grader, recently endured a nine-hour surgery to remove a brain tumor and then another surgery to remove a blood clot. Baranowski’s tumor was benign.

Seventh grader Alexis Griffin also was diagnosed with a brain tumor and underwent surgery this past week. There were complications with her surgery and she is still in the ICU waiting on test results concerning her tumor.

Cathleen Chance, a sixth grader, is battling a rare case of reoccurring pelvic tumors that were first diagnosed when she was in fifth grade at South Effingham Elementary.  Since starting middle school at EMS, Cathleen has had a second surgery and additional chemotherapy.

Not only have these students missed a good amount of school, their parents have been faced with missing work and enormous medical bills. Ebenezer Middle School is doing its part to help.

For the past two years, EMS has raised over $3,000 in change each year for the Make-a-Wish Foundation. This year, with three students of their own facing critical illnesses, the staff and students voted to have a “Coins for Our Kids” drive instead and divide the money they collect evenly among the Baranowski, Griffin and Chance families.

“The school voted and decided to set $4,500 as our goal,” explained counselor Dr. Cheryl Tobey. “We collected over $2,600 in one week and expect to exceed our goal, but every additional dollar we can collect will help these families tremendously.”

Although the coin drive has officially ended, the school is continuing to accept donations and is also planning an in-house warball tournament on the last day of school, with proceeds going to the three families.

For additional information, or to make a donation, contact Dr. Tobey at or 754-7757.