26 Jun

Kel Pittman is a well-known and much loved member of our community.

Kel’s Story
Kel first became a part of the St Peter’s Woodlands Community when her daughter enrolled in 2011, followed by her son in 2013. She later started working as a teacher at SPW in 2014, that same year she was diagnosed with Stage 3c ovarian cancer.

After the diagnosis the school community instantly rallied around Kel and her family. They showed their love and support by ensuring that the family continued to function with the daily logistics of family life while Kel underwent treatment.

They organised a freezer to go out the front of their house which was constantly re-filled with food, school mums organised drop off and pick up for her kids and made sure they never missed special school days. Incredibly, Kel continued to work during this time, only taking time off for treatment.

“Kel’s story is one that epitomises the community spirit at SPW. How do you ‘get’ that community spirit? It isn’t something you can specifically put your finger on. It’s just a feeling that you know is there. It’s made up of all the stories, both celebrations and struggles that each family faces. We know that in a time of need there is a community ready to help, connected through the thread of SPW.” – Kate Hayward

White Shirt Campaign
In 2016 Kel became aware of the annual White Shirt Campaign, run in partnership with Witchery and the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation. Every dollar from selected Witchery white shirts purchased during the campaign goes towards the OCRF and its research into an early detection test and better treatment for women in the late stages of the disease, such as Kel.

OCRF Ambassador
Kel decided to become an Ambassador for the OCRF where she is recognised not only for her contributions, but also for her work in providing first hand insights into receiving an ovarian cancer diagnosis.

Her input helps shape how the message is spread and guides research into funding pathways and treatments. Kel’s willingness to turn her personal experience into an open campaign to raise awareness means the SPW Community knows at least 6 important facts about the disease!

SPW White Shirt Day
Kel also sparked the school’s participation in the White Shirt Campaign, whereby staff wear white shirts to work to raise awareness and show support of Kel, her family and other women living with ovarian cancer.

White Shirt Day Luncheon
Every year since 2016, Kel and a group of incredible women get together to celebrate life, the strength of women and the importance of community over a long lunch.

Since its infancy, the group has grown from 12 women to over 60. It is a celebration that Kel has made another year and also a chance to raise awareness of the disease and much needed funds for OCRF. To date the luncheon has raised close to $30,000.

Students’ Act of Kindness
Kel is currently an Educator Support Officer in David Kennedy’s Year 5 class. After Kel was directed to self-isolate during the peak of South Australia’s COVID-19 infection, the students expressed an interest in showing support for their much loved ESO. They began brainstorming a few ideas and decided upon creating a poster for Kel.

“Kel is an inspirational woman. Her optimism and love for others, in the face of challenges, defines just how brilliant she is. When the idea of ‘something’ to keep Mrs P’s spirits up was discussed in the class the idea snowballed instantly. When the class presented Kel with their artwork, there were grins from ear-to-ear and a sense of absolute empathy and love. It’s one of those unique and inspirational teaching moments that slides straight into my long-term memory.” – David Kennedy

Each student dressed up in costume and had their photo taken using the Media Suite green screen. With the help of school mum and graphic designer Narelle Dandy, the photos were pieced together to create a poster for Kel with the text, “It’s hard to beat a person that never gives up.”

Presenting Mrs Pittman with the poster in class

“We wanted to show Mrs Pittman that we care about her and we will help her with anything she needs.”-  Peter

“Thank you for showing us that we can do anything we put our minds to.” – Sidney & Josh

“Thank you for being a role model and inspiring us to believe that anything is possible.” – Lara

“Thank you for helping us.” – Nina

“You’re very helpful and nice.” – Emmi

Bounce Back! Program
Each student was given a postcard sized copy to keep and a large poster was presented to Kel. It was a lovely way for the children to express their support for Mrs Pittman and demonstrated key elements of the school’s student Wellbeing Program, Bounce Back!

Students have been learning about Bounce Back! since the beginning of the year and this project reflects the student’s understanding of resilience and social-emotional learning.

Kel was truly touched by the act of kindness and teacher David Kennedy was impressed by the students’ thoughtfulness to instigate and run the project of their own volition.

“I was overwhelmed with gratitude at the effort and time the children had put into it. It showed kindness and love, and demonstrated once again the importance of relationship and being connected with the kids in our care.” – Kel Pittman

White Shirt Day Video
Over the years Kel has forged a number of strong friendship with the teaching and parent community at SPW. Planning for this year’s White Shirt Campaign and lunch turned into postponement when the unfolding COVID-19 pandemic took hold.

Determined not to let the message and beautiful spirit of the day take a back seat to the current events, members of the SPW parent community close to Kel decided to forge ahead with a special gift to Kel in support of her and her family’s journey.

With a borrowed idea and plenty of determination, this group of SPW parents were able to produce a video and collage as one of the many tributes to this year’s White Shirt Campaign. You can view the incredible video here:

“While it is sometimes hard to know if Kel is supporting us or we are supporting her, through her willingness to share her journey, our children are witnessing first-hand what it means to be a part of a community, possibly the greatest gift we can offer them.” – Kate Hayward

Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation
To find out more about Ovarian Cancer and the ways you can contribute visit: Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation

Thank you to Kel Pittman, Kate Hayward and David Kennedy for contributing to this article.