When teacher Sharon Jacobs lost both her husband and father to pancreatic cancer, she made it her mission to raise money and awareness so survival rates could improve.
For the past decade, Jacobs has participated in a number of fundraisers and events for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, a national support group for people fighting the disease.
This year, however, she wanted to do something special.
"The tenth anniversary of my husband's death was in January and it will be eight years since my dad passed, so I really wanted to do something to honor both of them," she said.
Earlier this year, Jacobs approached fellow Lemont High School Drama Club sponsor Roy Nees about performing a play to benefit the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. She decided on "Love Letters," the Pulitzer Prize-nominated play by A.R. Gurney.
"The play is about two people sitting next to each other, reading letters about their lives," she said. "It's incredibly simple, but it's also very moving. I thought it fit well with what I wanted to do."
"Love Letters" centers on just two characters—Melissa Gardner and Andrew Makepeace Ladd III—as they sit side by side at tables and read the notes, letters and cards that have passed between them throughout their separated lives. Those communications span approximately five decades, and detail their hopes, ambitions, dreams, disappointments, victories and defeats.
Jacobs and Nees, along with members of the Drama Club, will perform the show at 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 20, in the Lemont High School Performing Arts Center, 800 Porter St. Tickets are $10 and may be purchased at the door.
In the lobby that evening, letters will be on display from students to their “heroes” who are battling cancer or who have succumbed to the disease.
"Everyone has been affected by cancer in some way," Jacobs said. "The letters will be a really sweet way to pay tribute to those we've lost and those who are still fighting."
All next week, the school's morning announcements will include facts and figures about pancreatic cancer, and the halls will be decorated with purple ribbons.
Jacobs said she's grateful for the administration, teachers and several student groups who stepped up to support the cause.
"It has really turned into a school-wide thing," she said. "I've always done by best to support PanCan and raise awareness, but to do that within the walls of Lemont High School is really special."
Founded in 1999 as a non-profit, patient-based advocacy organization, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network works together with a nationwide network to advance research, support patients and create hope for those affected by pancreatic cancer.
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