Garrison Forest School gets angry about breast cancer, joins the fight at Race for the Cure

Organizes largest Komen team past 5 years in a row
Posted at 12:21 PM, Sep 25, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-05 19:57:02-04

Breast cancer sucks.

Everyone at Garrison Forest School who attends the Komen Race for the Cure believes this. It's a cancer that's touched so many women in this small network of schools, the 1 out of 8 statistic is deeply felt.

Twenty years ago, students were mainly concerned about a different cancer. Katie Baughman, Upper School Dean of Academic Development, says students wanted to run a symposium on cancer, focusing on skin cancer, and mentioning lung and breast cancer to educate their peers. 

"I remember them talking about friends making decisions to go tan. It was really before spray tans and people were going to tanning beds and they saw their peers going to do that and thought it was incredibly short sighted... They thought it would come better from students informing students about the dangers in the long run," Baughman said.

Once they started to dig into these topics, the importance to them shifted to breast cancer. The students thought, being an all girls school, and seeing how many women were affected by this disease, they could do more to help.

That's when they created the Garrison Forest School Komen Team

Parents and faculty quickly stepped up in support and, rapidly, the team grew. The last five years, the team was so big, Garrison Forest won the Team Challenge.

Seven years ago, the school lost their Dean of Academic Development, Erin Raleigh, to breast cancer.

"It was brutal. (Reporter: It's not a pretty) I hate cancer... I mean I hate cancer! What it does to people is so unforgivable, " Baughman said.

She had to step into her best friends role after her loss.

Baughman said she's reminded of her everyday. There's her posters still hanging in her classroom and sometimes Baughman finds pieces of Raleigh, "you know how things fall down in desk drawers, and I'll sometimes pull something out and it's in Erin's handwriting or Erin's notes."

The story resonates throughout campus.

Ninth-grader Pippin Kenny will never talk with her mother about homework or a high school sweet heart.

"When I was in third grade she was diagnosed with breast cancer and in fourth grade she was cured," Pippin said the cancer came back two years later in her mother's brain, killing her that summer.

"It's still hard today, but you know just us talking about her as a family really keeps her memory alive," Pippin said.

For those who made it through the traumatic ordeal. Surviving can be just as hard.

Alexandra McMahon said after battling breast cancer for a year, she finally felt like she won when she crossed the finish line at Komen.

 "That was very important and it made me feel better about what I'm going through."

She relied on her Garrison Forest family, former classmates, and her husband to help out with their children and endless trips to the doctor.

McMahon is now teaching her two daughters about breast cancer, hoping awareness will help them know the signs.

Pippen hopes it doesn't take a tragedy or a close call to start the conversation.

We all hope, one day we'll have a cure.