While the Newton High School student body and faculty gave money in the fight against cancer last Friday, Newton English teacher George Miles contributed his legs.
Armed with a hat, iPod, and motivation — sister Ann is in recovery from cancer and friend Priscilla Davis is a survivor — the 56-year-old classroom vet with a sharp wit vowed to run the entire instructional school day as long as the school raised at least $100 per period.
"It’s what I can do to fight cancer," said Miles, who had cut down on Waffle House breakfasts and hit the treadmill last December in preparation. "I’m not hoping to inspire [anyone else to do this]. But I want coach [Wes] Cooper to join me next year. I’m issuing a challenge."
Students contributed money all week. However, many took advantage of an opportunity to watch Miles run if they each gave 20 cents on Friday, as evidenced by the large crowds overflowing from the bleacher seating.
Later that day, after six-plus hours and more than 37 miles in laps, his efforts rang up $1,700 — close to 20 percent of the $8,885.18 Newton raised in total.
According to math teacher and Newton Relay for Life Team Captain Diana Brown, several student groups, including the Marine Corps JROTC, Beta, Psychology, Key, AMICAE, F.U.N. Time, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and Anchor clubs donated fundraiser monies throughout the school year.
"[It is] truly awesome," said science teacher Heather Fisher of Miles’ efforts. Fisher is currently undergoing her third treatment for cervical cancer. "For those of us who had [cancer] and/or are going through. . .it is very touching that someone would do that."
Fisher is not the only one touched by Miles’ run. He estimates more than half of the 150-member faculty e-mailed him after he announced his intentions earlier this month, including Newton Principal Dr. Roderick Sams, who was "very enthusiastic."
But Miles deflects praise to those like his sister and friend who refuse to succumb to their condition and the hard work of those who counted money and cheered him on.
"The faculty has been very supportive," said Miles during a break. "You can see it by what is going on here (the student presence)."
Among those students present to support Miles were freshmen Brittany Smith, Kelsey Upton, and Sierra Pruitt. Upton, a runner, and Pruitt, who plays soccer, both claim they could not do what Miles did.
"It takes real heart to [run] for that long for such a good cause," said Smith.
In addition to bringing their classes to the track, English teachers Pam Greer and Katie Green set up a refreshment tent flush with Gatorade, fruit, energy sprays, and a kiddie pool with water for Miles to occasionally douse on himself.
Without this, he claimed, his run would not have been possible.
Greer said she prepared the area in response to an e-mail Miles sent, but she brought the kiddie pool because she thought he needed it.
"We should all be proud of what he did for cancer research," said Greer.