HAMPSHIRE – Many of Joan Steenhausen’s co-workers at the deLacey Family Education Center regarded the longtime District 300 employee as their queen bee for her vast knowledge and eagerness to help.
Steenhausen, an early childhood specialist who died from cancer in October, had many dedicated “worker bees” because of her caring approach to education, said Megan Tracy, a speech language pathologist at deLacey.
Nearly six months after Steenhausen’s death, Tracy and 32 other employees from the Carpentersville-based school district have formed “The Queen’s Bees,” a team that will walk all night in remembrance of Steenhausen during the district’s fifth annual Relay for Life event that begins Friday evening.
“Our whole school has come together more this year,” Tracy said. “It goes to show what a great person Joan was and how many lives she affected.”
Steenhausen affected countless employees, students and parents during her 34-year tenure at the district, Tracy said.
The Queen’s Bees would know best.
The team so far has raised $12,400 for the district’s Relay for Life event, which communities across the country conduct throughout the year to raise money for the American Cancer Society.
Nearly 700 students and staffers from District 300 will walk around the Hampshire High School track from 6 p.m. Friday to 6 a.m. Saturday to rally support for cancer victims.
The team’s large fundraising total ranks them first out of the 92 other teams that have registered to participate in the District 300 relay. By comparison, the district’s second-place team would need to raise more than $8,880 to surpass the Queen’s Bees.
The numerous donations that have been made in Steenhausen’s honor has surprised even Tracy, who is the captain of the team. The district employees, mostly Steenhausen’s co-workers at deLacey, originally set a goal of $5,000, then raised it to $10,000.
The group conducted donor drives throughout the year, including a penny drop where they asked families to donate loose change. But Tracy credited Steenhausen’s everlasting spirit and reputation for the unprecedented support from donors.
“Joan was a remarkable person for the children of the district and the staff members,” Tracy said. “She was always there.”
Steenhausen was diagnosed last summer with a rare form of sarcoma, a cancer that typically originates in the soft tissue of the body. Quickly after the diagnosis, the cancer spread from her back to her entire body, Tracy said.
Steenhausen was set to retire after this school year. The cancer prevented her from working at deLacey when students returned to class last August.
The American Cancer Society estimates that more than 1.6 million Americans, including 66,000 Illinoisans, have been newly diagnosed with cancer in 2013. Of that total, 580,350 people have died.