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Gifted tree seedlings help honor student

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette Third graders show off their sugar maple saplings which will be planted in honor of their late friend Callie Cavanaugh at Donald E. Schick Elementary School Thursday. From lower left clockwise is Juliet Harris, Olivia Bortz, Maddy Williams, Peyton Phillips, Natalie Pearson, Aynslie French and Simone Gehr, all 9.

Donald E Schick Elementary received about 100 tree seedlings from PPL’s Community Roots program to plant in honor of third-grade student Callie Cavanaugh.

“She battled cancer for two years. She just passed away,” said Suzanne Foresman, principal. “All of our third-grade students went home with a seedling of some variety to plant in honor of Callie.”

She said the school’s parent teacher organization decided that using PPL’s program would be a great way to honor Cavanaugh. The students were given tree seedlings to take home to plant with their families in memory of their classmate.

“It’s absolutely important for them to have a memorial. They went home saying, ‘These are Callie’s trees. This is Callie,’ “ Foresman said. “It was very touching for the children as they were leaving school.”

She said at least one of the tree seedlings will be planted on the school grounds in Cavanaugh’s memory.

While her classmates were the first to receive trees, others in the district were allowed to get seedlings as well.

“She has older brothers who have gone through sports and things like that. We wanted to make sure we touched on anyone that had a connection to the family,” said Elise Stopper, parent teacher organization member. “We wanted to figure out a way that we could impact everyone in Loyalsock Township School District that has been touched by Callie and her struggle with cancer.”

She said it was a nice way to use the Community Roots program and get trees planted and into the environment.

“The reason we picked third grade is because Callie was in third grade, so that grade especially was impacted by the cancer, her struggle and her

death, of course,” Stopper said. “We wanted them to have the opportunity to have something at their home that would remind them of Callie, so that’s why we decided to do it.”

Aynslie French, third-grade student, said she couldn’t wait to plant her tree.

“They mean a lot to me because they’re for Callie,” she said. “I think I’m going to plant it at the park … or maybe at my new house when we move.”

Peyton Phillips, third-grade student, said it was important to have the memorial.

“It’s a memory of Callie, and we’re supporting her,” she said. “We’re showing that we really cared about her.”

French said on a scale of one to 10, they cared “a major 10.”

“No, we cared a million. The highest, a million,” Phillips said. “There was never a really sad moment with her. It was just so exciting, and it was so happy.”

Maddy Williams, third-grade student, said they had a group of friends together known as the Callie Crew.

“She always helped us get through what we were scared of,” she said. “She was always with us.”

Natalie Pearson, third-grade student, said Cavanaugh was very nice and kind.

“She had a good heart,” she said. “She loved everyone. Her favorite thing were horses.”

Simone Gehr, third-grade student, said Cavanaugh was all of their best friend.

“She was diagnosed when we were all in first grade. It’s been a hard two years, and the trees are to remember her,” she said. “I’m going to plant mine with my poppa because he had a friend who died of cancer as well.”

“We recognize the beauty of trees, and we’re sensitive to the attachments people form with them,” said Tracie L. Witter, regional affairs director of PPL Electric Utilities. “We started this program because we care about the communities where we all live, work and play. We wanted to do something to show the community that we care about the environment.”

She said it was meant to be a way to give back considering PPL does so much tree trimming in order to keep powerlines functioning.

“So while we work to responsibly maintain trees along our lines, the Community Roots program allows us to counterbalance these actions by giving organizations an opportunity to responsibly plant trees,” she said. “Trees increase oxygen and provide for a cleaner environment, so we thought it was a good way to reduce greenhouse gases.”

She added that about 20,000 trees will be planted across the 29 counties in the PPL service area in 2018, and orders for 2019 are open. Visit www.pplcommunityroots.com for more information about the local governments, environmentally focused groups and elementary students that are eligible to receive trees.

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