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Lanoka Harbor School 'Hearts' Ocean of Love

Third-grade classes honor classmates and Ocean of Love with generous donation.

Lanoka Harbor Elementary School third-grade teachers Karen Martenak and Amy Orlick were inspired to give back to Ocean of Love, an organization that assists families of children with cancer, after they saw how much the organization helped the family of a student.

Christopher Blozen was diagnosed with a brain tumor while he was in Martenak's class four years ago and passed away the following year. 

"He was a great kid who was involved in many of the clubs and organizations at the school." said Martenak. 

Martenak and Orlick began a fundraiser with the third grade for Ocean of Love after Blozen's death.

"We wanted to honor his memory, but we also do it in honor of all the children in the district who still are alive and fighting cancer," she said.

Martinek also sees the fundraiser as a way to thank Ocean of Love. 

"Everything they do to support the child and their family is free. We've been able to see what a difference they can make in a life," said Martenak.

At the board meeting, Martenak and Orlick presented Ocean of Love case worker Sue Newman with a $400 check. It was the third such check from Lanoka Harbor third-graders, with donations to the organization totaling about $2000 in three years.

The theme of the annual fundraiser is: Our Hearts Swim in an Ocean of Love. 

"We send out letters to the entire school that have hearts on the back of them," said Martinek. 

Parents buy the hearts for $1 each and send them back with names or messages that are put on the school office bulletin board, which represents an ocean.

"It's a team effort. The whole school comes together and it's just great to watch. The hearts come in one at a time and we watch the bulletin board fill up," said Martenak.

"With kids that age, it's hard for them to understand if you collect this much money, but if they see this many hearts they know good things are happening," she said.

"Unfortunately we've seen many children who have been affected by cancer, so it's nice that we can do something to help," said Orlick.

Newman has worked at Ocean of Love for two years, but was introduced to the organization 12 years ago when her then 6-year-old son Evan was diagnosed with cancer.

Newman said Ocean of Love provided financial help, paid for car repairs, bought her family a new refrigerator and dish washer when they broke, helped with transportation expenses, and provided emotional support. 

Evan passed away six years ago. Now Newman facilitates the parent support groups and the bereavement groups when executive director Linda Gillick is not available. 

"If there's any knowledge that I have that can help a family that's going through what I went through, any thing I can do to help a family I will do," said Newman. 

Gillick founded Ocean of Love 22 years ago. She said the organization started with 12 families, but has helped more than 400. The grassroots group doesn't advertise, but grows through word of mouth, she said. 

"The best advertisement is doing what we should be doing to help families," Gillick said.

Lanoka Harbor Elementary School got that message and gave back.

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