Students of a popular music teacher at a Surrey school are “tuning out cancer” to help him and his wife meet the financial burden of fighting the disease.
A student-led online fundraising campaign was launched July 10 for Johnston Heights Secondary’s music director, Alan Holmes, and his wife, Jenni, who in March was diagnosed with Leiomyosarcoma, a type of soft-tissue sarcoma.
The couple, married for 34 years, accompanied dozens of choir singers on a trip to Vienna, Austria, last summer. Now some of them are helping the Holmes, both of whom have helped teach students the joy of singing and playing music.
The high school’s music program involves some 500 students.
“Jenni, whom Alan met in college, is an accomplished soprano with many years of teaching and playing experience,” former student Rylan Ferrer wrote in an email to the Now-Leader.
“In 2008, while teaching some band classes, Alan began the choral program which bloomed in three years to more than 300 students. In 2017, Alan and Jenni led 80 choir members on a European tour, garnering first prize at an international youth festival in Vienna. He, with the help of Jenni, has run the program for 10 years, deeply affecting the lives of the many students they have taught.”
When Jenni was diagnosed with cancer, Alan took a leave of absence from teaching to care for his wife.
“Both he and Jenni have put their heart and soul into the choir and band, making it a safe place to many students,” wrote Ferrer, who graduated from the school last month.
“Now, it is our turn to return the favour to the dedicated pair who have taught over 4,000 students and rooted the love of music into each of their lives. Alan has inspired me as well as hundreds of other people who have been through his program. And seeing him and his wife back on their feet would mean the world to us.”
A Youtube video shared to the Jenni Holmes – Tuning Out Cancer campaign page at gofundme.com includes appeals and stories from several students, along with a message from the couple.
The immediate fundraising goal is $75,000, but campaign organizers hope to eventually raise $175,000, “a portion of what the full cost may total to,” according to a post on the website. “All proceeds are going solely into treatment.”
As of Monday morning (July 16), more than $27,800 had been raised for the cause, which involves treatments “outside the prescribed cancer agency protocol,” Alan Holmes says in the video posted to the website.
“Because of that, we are in a financial situation where we need to ask for money, for that treatment,” he said.