‘Team Charlotte’ Determined to Defeat Deadly Foe

            Tabor Academy sophomore Charlotte Forker has been forced to grow up way ahead of schedule. Having lost her mother, Jen, a school nurse and beloved member of the Tabor community, to cancer on October 22, 2018, Charlotte wants to change the world.

            The 15-year-old has joined the Students of The Year campaign through the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and has set a fundraising goal of $20,000 over a seven-week period that begins on January 29. She will have until 6:00 pm on Saturday, March 20, to accept donations.

            “Personally, I’d love to even break my goal,” said Charlotte, who is involved in a fundraising effort for the first time.

            After her father, Jim Forker, started volunteering last year with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, the two went to Tabor Dean of Students Tim Cleary to discuss involving Charlotte in the Students of the Year program.

            “Through this discussion, it was clear this is something that’s incredibly meaningful for them,” said Cleary, who understands the challenge well as an annual fundraiser for Special Olympics. Charlotte’s goal, he said, is ambitious. “Knowing Charlotte and the type of kid she is, there’s tremendous potential here. I have confidence she will reach her goal.

            “And she’s running the show; she’s in charge. Charlotte’s driving the bus; she’s doing the lifting. She’s really devoted to this.”

            The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is the world’s largest voluntary health organization dedicated to fighting blood cancer. Since 1949, is the non-profit’s mission has been to cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease, and myeloma while helping address everyday needs for patients and their families.

            “I got to learn more about the organization,” said Jim, who recently raised   $27,000 as executive chairman of LLS’s New England campaign. After his wife’s 2017 diagnosis, Jim rode in the Pan-Mass Challenge, raising $17,332 in 2018 and $13,800 in 2019.

            “I was on board right away,” said Charlotte, who will have strong in-school support from Kelly Wagner, the ninth-grade class dean, and a Spanish teacher, along with six Tabor Academy students dedicating time to the project that will still take up most of her own.

            Charlotte’s campaign will utilize some of Jim’s contacts from his prior efforts but will network more through Tabor faculty and student body as a student-run campaign.

            “She also has friends over at [Old Rochester Regional High School] that are going to be on our team. She’ll also be working with local businesses; I didn’t do any of that,” said Jim, a real estate agent with Robert Paul Properties in Marion. “Charlotte will learn how to approach businesses, whether local or large companies, and explain what her goal is.”

            On her donation page, Charlotte explains that she “decided to join Student of The Year to end the world of blood cancers. As many of you know, my mom Jen was diagnosed with leukemia in 2017 when I was 11 [years old]. For a year and a half, I watched my mom battle with the cancer from at home and the hospital. I would go lay in the tiny hospital bed and watch Gilmore Girls with her while she would be receiving treatments. Even during the long times away from home, my mom still managed to keep me smiling by dancing or playing games with me. When the cancer started to tear away her body, she never let it break down her spirit. I am doing this to honor my mom but also for all of those that have been impacted by blood cancer.”

            Now a Marion resident, Charlotte was living in Rochester when her mother was diagnosed. She attended ORR Junior High School through eighth grade before transferring. Her older brother, Ben, graduated from Tabor in 2020, and her younger sister, Nora, an eighth-grader, plans on joining Charlotte at Tabor next year. Charlotte and Ben share a passion for soccer; Ben played at Tabor, and Charlotte, a forward, hopes to get back to playing soon.

            “The family is an integral part of our community, has been for years,” said Cleary.

            Tabor students are technically back from their Christmas break but are in remote learning mode up through February 2. Until Charlotte can restart a normal social life, she has been using her time to learn what organizations like the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society do.

            “When my family and I were in the fight with my mom, we were unaware of the amazing work LLS has been doing for years. LLS’s continued advancements are responsible for the blood cancer survival rate doubling and tripling; in some cases, the survival rate has even quadrupled,” she wrote on her donation page.

            Getting the word out two weeks in advance of the kickoff to her effort is a challenge, but Charlotte will be using Instagram, and Jim will be using Facebook while going live with phone calls and personal visits. “And then we have our fundraising page where donations can be accepted (beginning January 29),” said Charlotte.

            To learn more or donate, visit Charlotte’s page on the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society website at events.lls.org/ma/bostonsoy21/cforker.

By Mick Colageo

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