Benefit planned for Coldbrook teacher battling breast cancer

John Decoste
Published on April 21, 2014

Gaspereau resident Jill Conrad-Tracey is known for going the extra mile, so it’s no surprise her many friends are willing to go the extra mile to help her.

Friends of the Kings County teacher are planning an April 26 fundraiser to help the 44-year-old mother of three boys with some of the costs associated with her ongoing cancer treatments.

Conrad-Tracey - or ‘Mrs. C-T’, as she is affectionately known - is a Grade 3 teacher at Coldbrook and District School. Shortly before Christmas, she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. She recently underwent surgery and was scheduled to begin chemotherapy and radiation therapy soon.

Conrad-Tracey expects to be away from her teaching job until at least this fall and has already used up her sick time. Her husband is self-employed and ineligible for employment insurance benefits while staying home to take care of their children and Conrad-Tracey during her treatment and recovery.

Conrad-Tracey’s situation has already touched a great number of people, some of whom are among those organizing the April 26 fundraiser, which will include a student variety show, bake sale and silent auction.


Students getting involved

The variety show portion of the evening is the brainchild of Coldbrook Grade 5 student Khylena McKeen.

Khylena is one of about a dozen Coldbrook students and two teachers who are part of the group Band Rock. Music teacher Caitlin Quentin is bass player, while gym teacher Colin Yeliga plays guitar in the group. The rest of the band - including a drummer, two keyboardists, another guitarist and as many as seven vocalists - are students ranging in age from seven to 11.

“I read about Mrs. Conrad-Tracey, and saw the posters,” said Khylena, the drummer in the band. “I knew that other bands did benefits, so I asked my dad if he thought it was okay if we did a show for her.”

Her father, Jim McKeen, quickly gave his blessing. McKeen is helping her with the organization, but says it was “all Khylena’s idea” to get involved.

“I’ve never had her as a teacher, but she’s so well known. It touched me to hear about what she’s going through. We’re not doing this for anything more than the good feeling of doing it, and being able to help,” explained Khylena.

The student band has been practicing three days a week, preparing for their performance at the variety show.

“They’re already doing amazing things for their ages,” McKeen said of the band, in which his younger daughter, seven-year-old Jhiliea, plays keyboard. “They want to be able to do the best job they can for Mrs. C-T.”

The variety show portion of the evening has now grown to the point where it will include a number of student acts.

Another Coldbrook student, eight-year-old Olivia McCready, has been hard at work making bracelets. She has already raised more than $200 from selling them and she will also have them for sale at the fundraiser.

Jennifer Vogler, whose son Ben is the other Band Rock keyboardist, has taken on the organization of the silent auction portion of the fundraiser. The response and support from the community, she said, “has been phenomenal.”


Unforgettable teacher

Conrad-Tracey, said Vogler, “is one of those teachers you always remember – a teacher who goes above and beyond the call of duty, arrives early, stays late, and delves far beyond the required teaching curriculum.”

Conrad-Tracey taught Vogler’s son last year.

“(They) had an instant connection … but that’s the way Mrs. C-T is. Every child she has taught is made to feel special and has their own unique bond with her.”

Conrad-Tracey was initially hesitant about allowing a fundraiser to be held for her, Vogler said.

“She is used to being the one who does good deeds for others, and not being on the receiving end,” Vogler said, but her friends thought it was important.

“She has been through so much” in the last few months.

“She has overcome many obstacles in a short period of time, and has many more still to come. If anyone deserves kindness and generosity, it’s Jill and her family.”


All the details

On April 26, the doors of the Coldbrook Elementary School will open at 6 p.m. for the fundraiser. Admission is by freewill donation, and in honour of Jill, attendees are asked to wear something pink – and a feather boa – to show their support.