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4th Grader Picks A Way To Help Teacher Battling Cancer

Posted On September 22, 2017

By Mike Perleberg

Nine-year-old Emily Oatman and Switzerland County Elementary School teacher Travis Griffith have bonded through music. That bond has driven young Emily to organize a September 23 event to benefit Griffith. Photo provided.

(Switzerland County, Ind.) – When Switzerland County Elementary School fifth grade teacher Travis Griffith was diagnosed with cancer, student Emily Oatman became concerned.

When the 45-year-old father of four and suffered a stroke, Emily decided to do something to help his family.

“Travis is like an uncle to me. I miss him so much,” Oatman, a fourth grader from Patriot, says.

Oatman is a pretty good guitarist for being just nine-years-old. She has been taught by Travis, who is the lead guitar player for the local band Remember Me Monday, for three years. They have performed together as part of the school’s field day band.

But the last time she saw her teacher was in June. He was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a type of cancer that causes tumors to grow in bones or soft tissue around them, on June 1. It affects about 200 children and teens in the U.S. each year, however, it is rare in adults.

Travis has been through two rounds of chemotherapy. A stroke he suffered less than two weeks after his cancer diagnosis has made the cancer battle more difficult. He is now at home recovering.

“I miss every guitar lesson and when we’d go somewhere and perform together. He makes it funner and jokes around,” Emily shares.

With the help of her parents, some friends, and teachers, Emily is organizing the “Mr. G. Benefit”. It will be held Saturday, September 23 from 2:00 until 8:00 p.m. at Switzerland County Elementary School. There will be a picnic, silent auction, and live music.

Emily plans to honor to her favorite teacher by performing “God Bless America” and “Amazing Grace” at the event. Travis may not be able to physically attend the benefit, but he could make a Skype appearance from home.

A goodwill donation will be requested to attend the benefit. Proceeds will be donated to the Griffith family to help with medical bills. More details are available on the event’s Facebook page.

Emily’s mother, Michelle, says donations for the silent auction are needed, as well as volunteers. Individuals or businesses can call (513) 544-1740 or (812) 290-7707 to arrange a contribution.

“A lot of members of the community are coming together,” Michelle says.

The t-shirts given out at the event will feature a special message: “Music is the prayer that the heart sings.”

“Because Travis wants to keep music alive and so do I,” says Emily.