A blood drive Tuesday in one Vermont community took on special meaning — doubling as a tribute to a public school teacher who has become an institution in her city.
"Oh my God, she's back," fourth grader Daniel Becker said, recalling the delight that went through his mind when he saw veteran teacher Kathy Buley make a surprise visit to South Burlington's Chamberlin School.
Buley suddenly had to leave the school community she loves in March when she learned she has pancreatic cancer.
"It's great to be here and see all of you," Buley told her students during Tuesday's visit.
"She was one of my favorite teachers, actually," fourth grader Caleb Kayembe said of his third grade teacher.
"She's caring and she just wants the best for people," fourth grader Alishea Roy added in an interview with necn.
Buley's surprise return to the Chamberlin School came after she learned fellow teacher Cindy Tan had organized a blood drive in her honor.
"She's such a kind person to others," Tan said of her friend and colleague.
Tan told necn she knew how appreciative Buley was that blood was there for her when she needed transfusions following her diagnosis. Since Buley had told friends giving blood would be a fitting way to show their support during her cancer treatment, Tan planned the blood drive.
After the educator who spent four decades in South Burlington schools caught wind of the blood drive, she decided to travel from the Boston area, where she's staying while receiving chemo at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, to thank the many blood donors in person.
"Just the positive energy that I feel from the support of all the people in this community — it absolutely is having an impact on me," Buley said, in reference to Tuesday's blood drive as well as notes and other messages she has received from community members since her pancreatic cancer diagnosis.
The blood drive drew South Burlington teachers, Buley's neighbors, school board members, former students, and others to roll up their sleeves for the cause.
"Kathy's a great colleague and it's a great cause," South Burlington schools employee Paula Ralston said while giving blood.
"It's a wonderful community — they come together," said blood donor Diane Bacon, whose adult son had Buley as an elementary school teacher.
Buley told her many friends at the blood drive she is responding well to treatment.
"Right now, I'm just taking it one day at a time," the longtime educator told necn.
There is no word yet if Buley will be able to get back into the classroom, the teacher said. Until she knows, the cancer patient is calling each of the embraces she received Tuesday from friends, coworkers and neighbors little doses of medicine for her soul.
"I love them all, and couldn't be more grateful for all of their efforts," Buley said of the people who organized and took part in Tuesday's blood drive.