JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — She's a beloved custodian at Fleming Island Elementary. Vivian Reese has been cleaning up spilled ketchup and cheering for students at the Clay County school for 21 years.
Now it's time for the students and staff to give her some extra loving.
The students created signs with messages they each chose to inspire Miss Vivian. She walked outside to a row of students with big banners, peppy cheers and group hugs.
Miss Vivian got a big choked up.
"You love our kids. You love our school," Principal Jennifer Collins told her. "We're just so thankful for you. You're here and we can celebrate."
"The reason I like Miss Vivian is because she's super nice to me!" fifth grader Antonio said.
Super nice. And super strong. Miss Vivian is a true breast cancer warrior.
She has followed Buddy Check from the early 1990's. When First Coast News anchor Jeannie Blaylock first started Buddy Check, Miss Vivian began to pay attention ot her breasts, checking and keeping mammogram appointments.
She didn't like getting a mammogram. Miss Vivian says they do "squash and squish and squash." But she knows it's crucial.
"It saved my life," she said. "It saved my life."
It turns out two other staff members at Vivian's school are also loyal to Buddy Check 12. In fact, their focus on catching breast cancer early helped save their lives.
"I've been hearing about Buddy Check forever," Patti Trahan said.
"It was a reminder, 'Oh, I need to check,'" Catherine Mrwik added.
Both women are survivors, pleased to see Fleming Island Elementary help young students learn about the hope of catching breast cancer early and beating it. They say the students' support of Miss Vivian at school could inspire helpful conversations at the dinner table at home.
Miss Vivian says she's blessed to have such a terrific school "family." Yet, she also gives credit to Buddy Check and urges all women to take part in it.
"You need to do the Buddy Check," she said.
Buddy Check is a joint project of First Coast News and Baptist Health. Anchor Jeannie Blaylock started the program on TV 29 years ago. It encourages women to get a Buddy and remind her every 12th, Buddy Check Day.
You can get a free Buddy Check kit mailed to you.
It includes a waterproof card to hang in your shower showing how to do a self exam. Many women say it's a great reminder to check. These days, if you catch breast cancer early, your odds of beating it are 98%.
To get a free Buddy Check kit, just call Baptist at 904-202-CARE. You can order the kits for your school or group, as well. Postage is also free.
If Buddy Check has helped you find breast cancer, Jeannie would love to hear from you. Just email her: firstname.lastname@example.org