Teachers take a pie in the face to raise money, celebrate the life of Lynne Forsyth
VICTOR — It’s tough to get junior high students to part with their spending money. But faced with a chance to throw a cream pie at their favorite teacher, it turns out they’re willing to open those wallets.
That’s what Victor Jr. High School’s Young Women's Leadership Club members were banking on when they planned a fundraiser in memory of their beloved teacher, Lynne Forsyth, to benefit Pluta Cancer Center.
The group’s co-advisor and seventh grade social studies teacher passed away in January following a long battle with cancer.
To say this rocked the school would be an understatement, said Jr. High English teacher Regina Muscarella.
Mrs. Forsyth was deeply loved by students and coworkers, and was actively teaching through late December 2016. Her death shook students and colleagues to the core.
To honor Mrs. Forsyth and give a boost to the cancer center that cared for their mentor, the school’s 25-member Young Women's Leadership Club spent two weeks drumming up support from students. They set an ambitious fundraising goal — $700.
“We had a jar out during lunch, and people would spend a dollar to get a ticket for the raffle to throw a pie,” said eighth-grader Kelsey Van Aken, a club member.
Names were drawn at a raucous pie-throwing rally held Tuesday, May 30, in Victor Jr. High’s steamy, jam-packed gym.
As winning students were announced, they gleefully took their places, pies in hand, before teachers swathed in plastic bags and raincoats.
Ultimately, 25 pies were flung into the faces of 24 teachers to the screams and cheers of 600 junior high students. Social studies teacher Patrick Lawley voluntarily took two pies.
Taking the fundraiser up another notch, seventh grade student Alexandra Finocchario recruited social studies teacher Brian Kavanaugh to shave his head, if students succeeding in raising $700.
They did, and he did, with a flourish.
“We raised $1,205, and our goal was $700, so we almost doubled it,” said Alexandra. “I asked Mr. Kavanaugh — all the students love him, and his room is right next to Mrs. Forsyth’s.”
Alexandra took the first pass on Kavanaugh’s locks, and then shot a video of a stylist buzzing the rest off as students cheered.
“She was a pretty positive influence on me day by day.” said a clean-shaven Kavanaugh after the high-energy and bittersweet celebration.
“You look at a woman who’s been battling breast cancer for years, and you wouldn’t have known it,” he said. “Coming to work everyday with enthusiasm and positivity that she spread throughout the school. It was the least I could do. It was my pleasure to hopefully get the school involved and pay our respects to such a wonderful woman.”
Mrs. Forsyth started Young Women’s Leadership Club in November 2016, so “it’s pretty amazing that they were able to pull this all together,” said Kavanaugh.
“It really shows you that she might not be here anymore, but she really is,” he said. “It’s her legacy. She was a great woman, and it’s the least we can do to draw some attention to Pluta and pay some respects to her. It was an easy ‘yes’ for me.”
Dianna Horvath, in 8th grade, said Mrs. Forsyth was “all about fun.”
“She was always the party of the group; we thought to commemorate her we had to do something like a party where students would come and just celebrate her life,” she said. “She was the golden teacher. I loved her and I still do. I want everybody to remember how much fun she’d want us to have and how much fun we had with her. We never want to forget her. It’s ingrained in our memories how beautiful she really was.”
Seventh grader Helen Qian said she was glad the group could “put something together for Mrs. Forsyth and fundraise for her.”
“We all love Mrs. Forsyth and she meant a lot to us,” Helen said. “We just really wanted to do something.”
The girls said they hope to give the money directly to Mrs. Forsyth’s doctor at Pluta Cancer Center as soon as possible.
“The group has really come together, even outside of this event,” said Jr. High Principal Brian Gee. “The guest speaker series with women in leadership, they’ve done Skype interviews with women who work in major league baseball and NASA, and just some really neat exposure.”
A list of the lessons Mrs. Forsyth shared with her students now hangs in most of Victor Jr. High’s classrooms these days. The first: “Let it go. Let go of anger and resentment.” The second: “Try everything once. Maybe you won't like it, but it just might become your favorite.”
The third lesson is “Be positive. Seek the positive during difficult times.”
The fourth is “Follow your dreams. If you're not satisfied with the path you're on, you have the power to change it.”
“We definitely want to change the world for the better, and show girls that they have the power to stand up and make it a better place,” said Dianna, as the gym emptied.
After Tuesday’s festivities inside, students, faculty and family gathered outside for a tree-planting ceremony in the school’s memorial garden.
Mrs. Forsyth’s lifetime partner, Tom Gallagher, reminded students of the lessons they had learned and encouraged them to continue to share their concerns and thoughts with their beloved teacher.
“You won’t hear her voice, but she’ll answer you through your heart,” he said.