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A Symphony of Giving: Elaine Tang and GCA Raise Spirits at Local Hospital

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Gilbert Classical Academy (GCA) embarked on an extraordinary journey of compassion and community. Through the combined dedication of students and staff, the school achieved the remarkable feat of donating a multitude of items to cancer patients at Banner Gateway Medical Center, all sparked by the initiative of one student.

Elaine Tang, a Junior at GCA, began volunteering at Banner Gateway Medical Center, using music therapy to foster a sense of community among patients. Discovering the profound impact of music therapy and fueled by her passion for playing the violin, Elaine aimed to create a club at GCA focused on offering music therapy in elderly homes. Although faced with initial setbacks due to similarities with existing clubs, she resiliently merged her ideas with a club called Bring Change to Mind.

One day during her volunteer work, Elaine noticed that cancer patients at the hospital were receiving significantly fewer donations compared to others. Intrigued, she asked her supervisor and learned that the unit indeed lacked substantial contributions. Determined to make a difference, Elaine took action.

Now part of the Bring Change to Mind club, Elaine spearheaded the creation of care packages for cancer patients at Banner Gateway. These thoughtful packages included snack bags, sudoku books, folded paper cranes, paper flowers, blankets, hats, and port pillows - a small cushion that helps chemotherapy patients with a portacath ride in cars more comfortably. Operating on a modest budget of $200, the club ingeniously designed prototypes for a new port pillow, ensuring maximum impact while staying within budget.

On a typical day at Gilbert Classical Academy, students wear a school uniform. On special occasions like "Dress Down" days, students can wear casual clothing. A club at GCA organized a Dress Down event, where students donated money and wore colored shirts to raise awareness for a specific type of cancer. The night before the event, Elaine received heartfelt messages from peers expressing gratitude for the opportunity to raise awareness of cancers that have affected their loved ones. The Dress Down day was a success, raising over $1,000.

“The Dress Down helped build a sense of community and belonging. I received messages that said our campus was ‘more together’ than it was before,” said Elaine Tang. “It was incredible to see students and teachers come together to work on this project. Our expectations were high but, in some areas, we doubled or tripled our goals.”

Now with the entire campus contributing to the project and with a larger budget, Bring Change to Mind was able to put together thousands of items to be donated to the hospital. 14 different clubs, including members of the staff, helped contribute to the project. In the end, GCA donated 200 sudoku books, 1,000 paper flowers, 321 snack bags, 101 blankets, 16 hats, 200 port pillows, and 1,800 paper cranes - each with their own hand-written message inside.

“I’m incredibly proud of Elaine. This was a monumental undertaking, especially in addition to her regular classwork during finals week. I kept checking in on her because she was doing so much,” said Aisling Sansevere, a Mental Health Counselor at GCA. “Elaine worked really hard to get this all done and she did it out of the kindness of her heart, not because it was a requirement.”

Elaine's efforts left an indelible mark, as recounted by her supervisor at Banner Gateway. The patients' faces lit up upon receiving the donations, uplifting their spirits and reinforcing their resolve in the battle against cancer. In recognition of her exceptional contributions, Elaine Tang will also receive the Citizen Student of the Month recognition from the Town of Gilbert.

Story by Tristan Chavez, Photos Provided by GCA