School No. 8 kindergartner Anna Brum told her family that she didn’t want any birthday presents and asked that they make donations to teacher Kim Kefalas’ cancer fundraiser instead. She donated $450, bringing the total over $5,000. 

group posing

Entertainers John Pizzi and Joe Holiday posing at the "Make Cancer Disappear" show at McManus Middle School on May 3 with the Dominguez and Mamudi families as well as Linden Public Schools staff.

By Gary Miller

The Linden community came together on May 3 for a night of magic and comedy to help the families of two elementary school children who are battling cancer.

The “Make Cancer Disappear” show at McManus Middle School raised money to help the families of School No. 8 second-grader Isabel Dominguez, who is fighting leukemia, and School No. 1 third-grader Arion Mamudi, who is fighting osteosarcoma. Both families were in attendance for the night of love and laughter featuring comedian and ventriloquist John Pizzi and magician Joe Holiday. Both donated their performances to the cause.



The show also benefited The Valerie Fund, which offers support that allows students to keep up with their schoolwork while they are undergoing treatments.

But just when you thought it couldn’t get any more magical, another rabbit popped out of the hat.

When School No. 8 kindergartner Anna Brum heard about the fundraiser, which was organized by her technology teacher Kim Kefalas, she told her mother that she didn’t want any presents for her birthday. She wanted everyone to donate to the fundraiser instead.

She ended up raising $450 to give to Kefalas, which brought the total to over $5,000 to be divided between Arion, Isabel and The Valerie Fund.

“As a teacher, there is a nothing more important that I can teach these kids than to inspire them to love people,” Kefalas said. “And she’s inspiring me. At 6 years old, she’s setting an example for every adult. I could not be more proud of her.”

Anna was honored by the Board of Education at its meeting on May 30. That night, Kefalas surprised her with a bag of donated gifts collected with the help of School No. 10 social worker Alicia Dinis to make sure she got birthday presents after all.

* * *

teachers and students posing with "Fight Like a Tiger" T-shirts

Kim Kefalas with School No. 10 students and staff wearing "Fight Like A Tiger" T-shirts that helped raise money for the American Cancer Society.

Kefalas, who teaches at School No. 8 and School No. 10, is a cancer survivor herself. She feels obligated to help raise money and awareness because of all the help and kindness she was shown from the Linden Public Schools community when she was fighting breast cancer.

“I had one of those days really bad days,” she recalled. “It was a bad chemo day and it was awful weather. I remember sitting in my house and saying, ‘God, if you just get me through this, I swear I will do everything I can to pay it forward.’”

For the past two years, she has sold T-shirts that read “Fight Like a Tiger” with proceeds going to the American Cancer Society.