Since 2006, middle-level youth at Phillips Elementary School have been participating in the annual Franklin County Relay For Life. That first year, the Relay theme was Base Camp and The MAPS Brigade entered the fight against cancer. MAPS stands for Madrid, Avon, Phillips, and Salem, the towns in which the Phillips School students live.

The Phillips Student Council, which celebrated its 25th anniversary last fall, is MAPS Brigade’s sponsoring organization. The team captain is the Council president, who is always an eighth grader as stipulated by their constitution. President Abraham Fast, now a graduate of Mt. Abram High School, led the Brigade on its first fundraising foray.

During their first nighttime maneuvers, the 15 youth participated in everything going. Together, they walked hundreds of laps, ran a “commissary,” and danced and cheered and sang and just plain thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

In fact, they were so energetic and enthusiastic throughout the event that they were rewarded in the morning with a three-foot-tall trophy for Most Team Spirit. This trophy, which came home with The MAPS Brigade for three consecutive years, remains one of the Council’s most-prized artifacts and is taken out of safekeeping periodically to be oohed and aahed over.

Over the next several years, The MAPS Brigade has participated as a team in all but one Franklin County Relay.

In 2012, an unusually small Student Council decided not to field a team. However, the seventh grade class that year was especially active and organized a team of its own, thus maintaining the Phillips’ school’s annual participation.

With MAPS Brigade back in the battle again last year, albeit with a one-man army, and the current team under the leadership of Student Council President Ally Ryan busily engaged on this year’s campaign, 2014 will mark nine years of consecutive service by Phillips youth.

From 2006 to 2014, The MAPS Brigade has grown to as many as 29 student members and shrunk to as few as one. They’ve raised thousands of dollars and walked hundreds of laps. They’ve celebrated Fancy Nancy Pink Day in honor of young Savannah Hurley of Wilton who lost her battle with cancer at the age of seven in 2008. In conjunction with teams from Mt. Abram High School and Strong Elementary, they co-sponsored several Cinco de Mayo District Dances for middle-level students. Every year, the very popular Student Council-sponsored Halloween Dance and Costume Party and the Winter Carnival Dance add their profits to the Brigade’s Relay coffers.

Other unique fundraising events over the years have included a One-Pitch Softball Tournament, a ’50s Sock Hop, a Western “Rodeo” (with the theme: Save a Cowboy: Lasso Cancer), and, this year, will host a Medieval Fair. Each year, team members also sell Luminaria and some special token in honor of or in memory of loved ones who have battled cancer.

The MAPS Brigade Medieval Fair is scheduled for Friday, May 16, at the Phillips Elementary School. It will be open to the public and youngsters pre-K through grade 4 from 5-6:30 p.m. Activities during this time will include “jousting,” pin the scale on the dragon, and several other Medieval-themed activities and crafts.

Many of the activities will offer prizes for participation. From 7 -9 p.m., a Medieval Dance will be held for students in grades 5-8. Prizes will be awarded for the best male and the best female costume. Refreshments and party favors will be available at both events. Final details are still under consideration. Watch for additional details.

The Relay For Life and the American Cancer Society are dear to the hearts of many in the Phillips community. MAPS Brigade members, and all who support them, believe in the mission of the American Cancer Society, a voluntary national health organization, which, as stated on its website, is “dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem by preventing cancer, saving lives, and diminishing suffering from cancer, through research, education, advocacy, and service.”

Through the team’s efforts to raise funds and raise awareness over the past nine years, they are “helping people get well, stay well, find cures, and fight back against cancer.”

Once again, on Friday, May 30, The MAPS Brigade will make its presence known at the Franklin County Relay For Life where they will join others in celebrating, remembering, and fighting back. Find out how you can help, too!

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