Alexandria students raise money for pancreatic diseases after teacher's death

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (WJLA) - Summer break is just around the corner for students at Hollin Meadows Elementary School.

The school year has been especially tough for the sixth-graders - their math and science teacher, Jeffrey Firman, was diagnosed with pancreatitis before the school year started, leading him to miss school sometimes throughout the year.

Sadly, Firman left for spring break and never returned. He died on April 16.

"Even though we only knew him for half a year, some of us have been here since kindergarten, so we have seen him around. So it was sort of painful," said sixth-grader Richard Harrison.

Teacher Angie Palma said, when the students returned to school, "they really needed something."

That something was to keep Mr. Firman's memory alive. The students decided to raise money for all pancreatic diseases.

"So we can honor him and help other people who are suffering the same illness," sixth-grader Daniel Schudlich explained.

Before he died, Firman had explained to his classes how serious pancreatic diseases can be, and how limited both research and awareness is currently.

While Firman didn't have cancer, the statistics are still startling.

The American Cancer Society estimates that, in 2014, there will be about 46,000 new cases of pancreatic cancer, and roughly 39,000 deaths.

"Other people are in need because of this illness," Daniel added.

So far, the students have raised just over $1,600 - but their goal is to raise $2,100, because Mr. Firman taught at Hollin Meadows for 21 years.

"I know their goal, for the kids, is just to reach it - but I know we can pass it," said Palma.

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