News Desk
 News Briefs
 News Summaries
 Arctic arts
 Readers comment
 Find a job
 Market reports
 Northern mining
 Oil & Gas
 Handy Links
 Construction (PDF)
 Opportunities North
 Best of Bush
 Tourism guides
 Feature Issues
 Today's weather
 Leave a message


NNSL Photo/Graphic


NNSL Logo.

Home page text size buttonsbigger textsmall text Text size Email this articleE-mail this page

Students help out janitor

April Robinson
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, April 22, 2009

SOMBA K'E/YELLOWKNIFE - He'd always wanted to take his wife of 33 years on a warm, tropical vacation - but the timing was never right.

Their two children had severe asthma growing up near Barrie, Ont., and the family made their big move to Yellowknife six years ago.

NNSL Photo/Graphic

A few of the Grade 8 students at St. Joe's Middle School gather with John Carter, the school custodian whose wife has cancer. The class held a fundraiser for Carter so he could take his wife on a trip. They are from left, Samantha Howard, 13, Trey Talbot, 14, Chelsea Moss, 13, John Carter, Jim Kameemalik, 14, Robin Abel, 13 and Ashleigh Mahe, 13. - April Robinson/NNSL photo

John and Tracy Carter thought their time had finally come a year and a half ago. Their bags were packed, and they were going to leave Canada for the first time.

Then Tracy, a nurse, found a lump the size of a grapefruit on her stomach.

It was cancer. Doctors removed the mass, but last May, Tracy, now 52, was diagnosed with breast cancer. She heads to Edmonton for five weeks of treatment on Friday.

One day in February, John, a janitor at William McDonald School, was speaking with Kathy Lovatt, who teaches the Grade 8 Catholic students from St. Joseph Middle School.

She was touched by his struggles.

"He was looking for another job so he could take his wife on a holiday," she said.

She started talking to her class, and they decided they wanted to help. Within a few weeks, the class raised $2,280 with their "Pick a Prize Raffle." They had called businesses and groups for donations. They raffled off prizes including an IPod, a hotel room and a barbecue set.

"We had to stop calling because we had so many yeses," said Robin Abel, 13.

Students, teachers and parents from both William McDonald and St. Joe's loaded up on tickets, helping students far surpass their $1,500 goal.

For the students, the fundraiser taught them more than just organization, leadership and team work. Nothing will beat the look on their janitor's face when they presented him the cheque, they said.

"It gave us a really warm feeling in our stomachs," said Tre Bryan, 13. "It looked like he was going to cry."

"When you work together - things can happen," added Colleen Hawkins, 14.

Carter was floored by the students' generosity.

"It was one heck of a random act of kindness," he said last week, his voice shaking with emotion. "It's just so unbelievable that Yellowknife people would do this for us. And I just can't thank them enough."

Meanwhile, Carter, 54, continues to work at the school while his wife undergoes treatment. Tracy has had a small biopsy, and she doesn't know if more removal will be required. She starts chemotherapy Friday.

"Whether that takes it or not, we don't know," John said, rubbing his hands together nervously.

Tracy, who will take one of the family dogs with her to Edmonton, told John she wanted him to keep working - and save his holidays for their vacation.

"One of us has got to keep working to keep up the bills," he said, adding he's still looking for extra work to cover household expenses and the trip.

He hopes by June they can go somewhere warm, somewhere beautiful - someplace she deserves.