Marathon fourth-grader Angel Velasquez spearheaded a money drive to benefit cancer patients. His teacher, Nan Young, right, is especially grateful. Her sister — and also Angel’s reading tutor— has recently undergone surgery to fight breast cancer.

“One day I was thinking and I thought about having a money drive,” said Angel Velasquez, 10, a student at Stanley Switlik Elementary. “And so I asked my teacher if I could do it.”

After talking it over with his fourth-grade teacher, Nan Young, he decided the money drive should benefit hospitals, specifically cancer patients that need surgery.

The request made a sharp pull on Young’s heartstrings.

“Just three weeks before, my sister had been diagnosed with cancer and Angel didn’t even know about it,” Young said.

But Angel did know Young’s sister. Karen Thomas regularly volunteers in the classroom; once a week Karen Thomas is Angel’s special reading buddy.

“Angel and I have a very special relationship. He’s very intuitive … I guess you could say that he is wise beyond his years,” Thomas said.

The two sisters have discussed the situation and how preternatural it is.

“Angel has become involved with my entire family,” Thomas said. “My mother and I both tutor in his class and we bring my mom’s therapy dog, Ilsa, too. Angel has played on my partner Daisha Cochran’s basketball team and my sister is his fourth-grade teacher. I wonder if he just picked up on the vibrations.”

When the teacher told Angel about Karen and her cancer diagnosis, Angel doubled down.

“I started wrapping faster,” he said, grinning. He recruited friend and classmate Destiny Story to help. For weeks, the two have been sacrificing their recess and returning early from lunch to get all the money sorted and counted.

“Since he learned about Karen, he’s had a greater purpose in this endeavor of his,” Young said.

Thomas recently returned from the mainland where she had a bilateral mastectomy to stop breast cancer. Throughout her absence, her sister was feeding her uplifting bits about Angel’s progress with the money drive.

The largesse has come from many quarters (pun intended). Angel brought in his own money and his classmates also contributed from family piggy banks. Switlik teacher Steve Ferrise contributed a money-counting bank and some change to the effort.

“We’ve even had second graders bring money in!” Angel said.

At presstime, Angel raised more than $300. He will present it to a team at the Relay for Life event on Friday, April 11.

He hopes to manage a canned food drive for the homeless next. The role of philanthropist suits Angel well. He’s got all the skills, including the accolade/acceptance speech, nailed.

“The first person I would like to thank is my teacher, Ms. Young,” he said.

Destiny Story, front, and Angel Velasquez sacrificed weeks of recess time to wrap and count coins.
Destiny Story, front, and Angel Velasquez sacrificed weeks of recess time to wrap and count coins.


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