(photo by Tim Jaynes, Staff)
But now, instead of worrying about who they'll take to prom or what college they'll get into, Carson Peters, Brandon Garner and Dustin Heaton have bigger things on their minds.
All three Sikeston High School students are diagnosed with cancer.
Seventeen-year-old Peters, a sophomore, was diagnosed two months ago with leukemia. Currently he is at home and will continue trips back and forth to St. Jude Children's Hospital in Memphis for check-ups and tests.
Garner, also 17, is a junior who was diagnosed with bone cancer about three months ago. He had surgery and is now home, taking daily shots and medications. He is traveling back and forth from St. Louis Children's Hospital at two-week intervals which he will continue for at least four more months.
Heaton, a 17-year-old senior, was diagnosed with leukemia about two months ago. He is currently at St. Jude Children's Hospital where he, too, is undergoing treatment.
Having a difficult time understanding how something like this could happen to one of their own, the boys' classmates set out to do something to help and are working diligently to raise money to show their support and concern.
When Pat Taylor, her sister Judy Hobbs and Kathy Pelczynski got wind of what the high school students were doing, they were so touched they began brainstorming themselves.
What they've come up with is a benefit spaghetti dinner which they are asking the community to support as a way of reaching out to the Sikeston teens and their families.
The meal will be served from 4:30-7:30 p.m. May 3 in the Sikeston High School cafeteria. Tickets are $6 for adults and $3 for children. Carry-outs will be available.
The money raised will be used to help the families pay for the cost of treatments and transportation to and from the hospital.
But as Taylor explained, the event has become much more than a dinner. It's turned into a full-fledged mission with support pouring in from every corner of the community. Not a day has gone by since the women starting making plans that someone hasn't offered to help.
"It's bad enough when older people are diagnosed with cancer but when it's a young person, it breaks your heart. We just wanted to continue what was started and it's unbelievable what people are doing," said Taylor. "There are just a lot of concerned people in Sikeston who want to reach out and help. We're a small community with people in it who have hearts of gold."
Cancer is a disease that has no age or gender preference which makes no one immune. It can happen to anyone at any time. "Speaking as a parent, I know how much it hurts when your child has to suffer any illness, I can only imagine the pain when that illness is life-threatening," said Dr. Larry Bohannon, assistant superintendent of secondary education and staff development for Sikeston Public Schools.
"The costs of treatment and travel involved are numerous and I think this benefit dinner is a great way to show how much we care for our youth, our school and our community. It also shows how great it is to live in a small community. You have a sense of family where each one takes care of the other one. We take so much for granted, our health especially. Life is all too short, we need to live each moment to its fullest and show others that we care."
The tickets are available at Senior High School, First State Bank and Trust, Edward Jones Investments and Progressive Farm Credit in Sikeston, Scott County Sheriff's Office in Benton or at the door the night of the event.