ANGLETON — Pouring out the doors of Westside Elementary School, 400 students took to the school grounds in preparation for a mile-long run around the campus.

Though the kids were buzzing with excitement, the run had a deeper purpose than just expelling energy.

Westside Elementary has raised money for the BIG Love Cancer Care nonprofit for 10 years, Principal Robin Braun said. The event is something students have made a tradition, she said.

“It’s just something we’re really proud of and we’re one of its biggest donors,” Braun said.

BIG Love was founded by Jessica and Chaney Phillips in 2007, the year after 5-year-old Brooke Phillips died from leukemia. The organization has since made its mission to aid children with cancer by providing weekly gift bags, catered meals, comfort carts and other amenities, according to the nonprofit’s website.

Students were able to raise $3,500 for the organization, whose mission is to “provide basic necessities and personalized care to cancer kids and their families”. Some students have been involved in raising funds for the nonprofit since kindergarten, Westside teacher Dee Cruz said.

“I think this year is more special because we do have Abigail (Arias) here and she does have cancer and the kids are aware of what’s going on,” Assistant Principal Holly Brockman said. “We’re such a big family. We’re a huge school but everybody knows everybody and so a lot of students just love and support her and a lot of them say they’re running for (Abigail).”

Students who participated wore grey “BIG Love” shirts as they ran around the school grounds, encouraged by peers and parents who watched.

In just a short time, the first students made their way to the finish line, greeted by cheers and water bottles for a job well done.

Some parents helped support the event by running with their child or buying T-shirts, Cruz said.

“We’re teaching the students about BIG Love and what they do,” Cruz said. “We do this for the love of the children and to teach children about compassion.”

Physical education teacher Amy Morgan said this is her first year preparing for the event, but the whole process has been exciting for everyone involved.

“It’s about always giving back,” Morgan said. “It’s nice. It’s a good tradition here.”

BIG Love reaches more than 140,000 individuals annually, offering 20 service-based programs at five Texas hospitals, 52 weeks of every year, according to its website.

Courtney Blackann is a reporter for The Facts. Contact her at 979-237-0152.

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