Teacher carries on Easter tradition despite battling cancer

HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Hundreds of little faces will light up Easter morning, thanks to a Harrison County school. On Friday, students, teachers, and parents at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic School pitched-in to make Easter baskets for needy families. It's a tradition some students thought would not happen this year.

The sixth graders at St. Vincent de Paul turned their school gym into an assembly line. They grabbed baskets and buckets and scrambled to fill them with Easter goodies. Each one contained plastic eggs, candy, toys, and a cuddly friend. Two words describe the scene.

"Organized chaos," said sixth grade teacher Cynthia Cox.

Mrs. Cox started the tradition 15 years ago to help families in need.

"The first year, we made 36 and it just kept growing and growing and now we're at 500 baskets," said Cox.

Some of her students were worried Mrs. Cox was not going to be able to continue the tradition this year. Mrs. Cox was diagnosed with breast cancer last July. She missed the start of the school year and several days of work to undergo chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

"She's nice to us. She's always helping us, telling us what to do so we don't mess up so the baskets look all nice and good for the kids who are less fortunate," said sixth grader Kaleb Allen.

"It's really important to me that she's here with me doing this with me. It would not be as fun doing this without Mrs. Cox," said sixth grader Abby LaRosa.

"I think it's really important that Mrs. Cox is here, because she's done it for so long. It's somebody that can help us do it," said sixth grader Sarah D'Aquilla.

But Mrs. Cox realized her children look forward to the project every year. And she will tell you, she gets much of her strength from them.

"I do get tired and I do get frustrated sometimes, because it is a lot of work. When I look at the kids, I see how happy they are, then, it's worth it. And I know Easter morning, another child that we'll never see will be happy as well," said Cox.

"We have 43 children here, and it could be total chaos. They're all working together to give to someone they don't even know, and that's what's emotional," she added.

Cox also credits parents, people in the community, and God for making the project happen year after year.

"I think God's working through me. When I was diagnosed with cancer, I did not see this as a hindrance. I really saw it as a way of rejuvenating my faith and to live my faith and that's why I continue to do the things I do with the Easter baskets," said Cox.

The baskets were delivered to Morning Star Pregnancy Center and the Department of Human Services Friday afternoon.  By the way, Mrs. Cox will undergo her last radiation treatment on Monday.

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