Throughout his lifetime and teaching career, Stephen "Fred" Frederick was more than a mentor to many people - especially his students.
He taught from the late 1960s until retirement in 2003. He held positions from band director to principal and was a beloved leader and well-respected educator.
According to former student Ron Frick, of Williamsport, "Fred was always bigger than life, he was a huge part in making me who I am. He taught me leadership skills I still use today, 30 years later."
Frederick passed away almost four months ago from lymphoma at the age of 66.
"There was an amazing bond of camaraderie and teamwork that Fred cultivated among his students," Frick explained. "As people learned of his passing, the outpouring of sympathy on social media renewed that bond. Generations of former students shared old stories and fond memories as if it was yesterday."
"I had held Fred's hand a week before his death and promised I would do something to make him proud.
Then the more we told those old stories about how genuinely special Fred was, the more I wanted to do something really meaningful to honor him and his memory," Frick added
After careful consideration and discussing it with the Frederick family, Frick chose to raise funds for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS).
He signed up to run the Philadelphia half marathon - something he had never done before.
"Fred was always teaching, always pushing us to improve ourselves and do more so this feels like a fitting tribute," Frick said. "I'm raising funds for LLS in his memory and challenging myself in the process."
When LLS was founded in 1949, a blood cancer diagnosis was almost always fatal. Thanks in part to innovative research funded by LLS, survival rates have doubled, tripled and even quadrupled for blood cancer patients.
As Frick has been training for the half marathon, he has a lot of time to think while on long runs. Most of the time he reflects on his relationship with Frederick and he knows on race day he will also be thinking about his grandmother who took him on day trips in historic old city Philadelphia when he was a young child.
"My gram took us on field trips every summer and wanted us to connect to our history. Running the half marathon in Philadelphia makes the route that much more meaningful," Frick said.
"I also think about how fortunate I am to be healthy enough to run. As my heart beats, sometimes I think about someone with a blood cancer like lymphoma or leukemia and how every time their heart beats, it is pushing cancer throughout their body. I can't begin to imagine how horrible that must be," Frick explained.
"With just two more weeks to go before the race on Nov. 17 in Philadelphia, numerous friends and family have contributed $3,120 toward my $3,700 goal. I'm humbled by the outpouring of support and very appreciative of their generosity," Frick said. "If I make the goal, I'll keep pushing it up as every dollar matters."
While many of Frick's friends and family were happy to donate, one friend thought she should do a little more.
"In 2000, I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma," said Kate Beaver Pacacha, Williamsport. "Chemotherapy and radiation treatments were not something I planned on at age 27, but I was one of the lucky ones. I'm still here because of advances in treatments and a talented medical team."
"There has been excellent progress in treatments for blood cancers but there is obviously still a long way to go. So when I heard about Ron's hard work, I really wanted to see him reach his goal and then some," Pacacha added. "Anyone who knows Ron knows his sincerity and passion for helping others, I'm happy to be a small part of it."
On Nov. 10, a Zumba-thon fundraiser will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. at The Pajama Factory, 1307 Park Ave., with all proceeds going to LLS. A donation per person includes refreshments.
"Our certified instructors include Megan Bowman, Donna Ferari, Vivian Severn, Toni Troxell and others so if you've ever wanted to try Zumba, this is a great way to sample different styles all in one place and help a good cause," Pacacha said.
To make a donation by credit card, visit pages.teamintraining.org/epa/phil13/rfrick8yd1.
To donate cash or a check, stop by the Zumba-thon Nov. 10.
"Every donation, in any amount, is greatly appreciated and will help put an end to these dreaded diseases," Frick said.