AUGUSTA — “I’m so grateful. The Harold Alfond Center for Cancer Care is something else I am thankful for because without the treatments I am still receiving, I wouldn’t be here.”

The words of Kevin Cullen, principal of St. Michael School in Augusta, were met with applause from students and staff in the gym of the school on Friday afternoon, Dec. 13, according to a news release from Dave Guthro, communications director, Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland.

It was an overwhelming yet expected response from a school community that is moved by a man who has given them so much.

The assembly, attended by Bishop Robert P. Deeley, featured a performance by the school choir and a check presentation by the students to the Harold Alfond Center for Cancer Care in Augusta, the very facility where Cullen currently undergoes cancer treatments.

“We told the kids that every single person in America is affected by cancer, either to a family member, a close friend, or they may have it themselves,” said Denise Levesque, marketing director at St. Michael, according to the release. “Here at St. Michael, they are all affected because of Mr. Cullen.”

The school held a “penny war” during the first week of December to raise money for the center, with many of silver coins and dollar bills joining the pennies among the donations. In addition, donation jars were placed at events such as the school’s annual Christmas concert on Dec. 5. The change kept adding up.

“When it was decided that the school would be raising money for the center in my name, my goal was $2,000,” said Cullen, according to the release.

When the large ceremonial check was flipped by Cullen and Deeley, the grand total of $4,853.45 that appeared on it drew a round of thunderous applause.

“This is a fulfillment of part of our mission where we need to model strong faith through community outreach,” Cullen said to the students, according to the release. “This is a wonderful thing you’ve done.”

“This is a wonderful way that you’ve shared yourself during the Christmas season,” added the bishop, according to the release. “This will help sick people get more help. You’ve been very generous. God bless you all.”

The bishop and Cullen presented the check to Paul Stein, the chief operating officer for MaineGeneral of which the center is a part.

“I’m in awe. You don’t realize the difference this money can make for our center and the people in our community,” Stein told the students, according to the release. “More than that, you have set an example of community helping community!”

The classroom competition was won by the fifth graders, who donated more than $650 in change. The fifth graders will receive a pizza party and movie to celebrate their victory.

Supporting charitable causes and holding service projects occurs on a daily and weekly basis at St. Michael, but this initiative was embraced in a different way. It hit home, both for the students and the man who inspires them.

“I love you all very much,” said Cullen, according to the release.

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