Last Thursday morning, Kathy Rogers left her home for the usual 45-minute drive to IU with a can of coins in hand. She wore a hat to cover her head, a habit of hers since being diagnosed with breast cancer in August.
Rogers was planning to cash the coins in later that day. Hopefully, it would be enough to buy gas for her next doctor’s appointment and a sandwich for her 15-year-old son, the youngest of her six children.
While she was at work at the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs Campus Cafe later that day, she was pulled aside for a small presentation. There, she was given a check for $2,165 from IU students and staff.
“My mind just went blank,” Rogers said. “I was in shock.”
The fundraising project was spearheaded by IU senior Nicole Wenger, who said she first met Rogers when she was a freshman at IU.
Wenger said she got the idea for the fundraiser from IU senior lecturer Cheryl Hughes, who brought up Rogers’ condition in class.
“Every time I went to the class, I just could not stop thinking about Kathy,” Wenger said. “I thought, there must be something we can do for her.”
Wenger began a fundraiser Nov. 20 using Venmo and advertised it to all of her classmates. They met their goal of over $2,000 in just two weeks.
Wenger said one of the most meaningful contributions was from her grandfather, who gave $20 to her cause shortly before he died over Thanksgiving break.
“No one picks and chooses who gets cancer,” Wenger said. “If I went through something like that, I’d want someone to do the same for me.”
Rogers, who has worked at IU for 20 years, said the students have kept her positive during this difficult time for her. She said they keep her preoccupied, which helps take away her fear.
“They tell me that I’ll make it through,” Rogers said.
Hughes, the teacher who inspired Wenger, said Rogers was a key supporter to her when she had breast cancer herself.
Hughes said she remembers Rogers called her beautiful even when she felt gross from the chemotherapy. She said it had a huge effect on her because many people treated her differently after her diagnosis.
“She was amazing to me,” Hughes said.
Hughes said she is happy to see students supporting Rogers in return for the support Rogers gave her.