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Murray Journal

Team Longview participates in Bowl for the Cure to support colleague

Feb 03, 2023 10:23AM ● By Julie Slama

Bowl for Cure logo

The first weekend of February, several Longview Elementary teachers and their families will be lacing up their bowling shoes to take part in the Great Salt Lake Bowling Association’s Bowl for the Cure.

While they’re thankful it’s an opportunity to have fun while getting some strikes, it’s a way they can support their colleague, fourth-grade teacher Anne Kjar, who is recovering from breast cancer this past year.

“I was diagnosed through a regular mammogram in May of 2022,” Kjar said. “It was caught early, thankfully. After 
a few scares and some surgeries, I began radiation in August and did radiation every weekday after school for six weeks.”

Kjar and 10 members of her family will bowl for free as Longview’s 50 teachers and staff paid not only their donations as well as their own $20 per person contribution, said first-grade teacher Mike Okurmura, who coordinated their participation in the event.

“I got to thinking every year my sister and niece participate in Bowl for the Cure, and I’m from a bowling family who bowls in leagues and tournaments, and I put that together with instead of doing a faculty white elephant gift exchange during the holidays, we could put our money toward supporting Anne,” he said. “When I suggested it, everyone was excited to support our friend in this fun way.”

Kjar isn’t one to be in the spotlight. After her diagnosis, she didn’t tell her colleagues right away.  

“When I was first diagnosed, I went outside and sat in my car and cried,” she remembered. “I then had a comforting thought that everything was going to be OK. It has been a test of my faith and I knew it may be hard, but I could do it. It has been an emotional journey, but one filled with many blessings.”

Those blessings have been her family and also her Longview family.

“The Longview staff and faculty have been absolutely incredible. They’ve done several things to show their support. They have done a ‘We’ve Got This Wednesdays,’ where everyone wears pink including pink ribbons, pink breast cancer socks and pink wrist bands. They held a celebration when I completed my radiation. I’ve had gifts and cards and simple hugs, which have all made my day,” she said. 

Kjar appreciates Principal Rebecca Te’o for allowing her to leave 20 minutes early for radiation and thankful for her colleagues who have helped dismiss her class. When it was time for those treatments, she let her students’ parents know why she wouldn’t be in class those last minutes of the school day.

“My students and the parents have been amazing. I’ve had darling notes given to me, gift cards so I haven’t had to make dinner, and other small gifts. I’ve had several students join with the faculty in wearing pink. It’s pretty sweet to see ‘tough’ fourth-grade boys wearing pink shirts and socks in support of their teacher. The radiation has made me extra tired, but fortunately, I haven’t had to miss many days of school,” she said, adding that now the "We've Got This Wednesdays" is “really to support everyone in whatever they may be going through. Initially, it started as a support for me, however, it became a support for all of us since everyone has a story and is going through stuff, just not always visible.”

Okurmura’s wife, Sharon, a former elementary school teacher, has stepped in when Kjar has needed a substitute.

“Anne never misses so it was unusual I was subbing the end of the school year for a couple days.  That’s when she had breast cancer surgery. Then, she had several radiation treatments this fall. She’s strong and she’s never wavered; she been there for those kids through all of it,” Sharon Okurmura said.

Her husband was glad Kjar agreed to allow the faculty to support her through Bowling for the Cure.

“I don’t think she wants everyone to feel sorry for her. She’s very independent and very generous, but she had to be reminded that she needed to let people give back to her,” Okurmura said.

Kjar remembered when he asked.

“I was very humbled to say the least. Naturally, my initial reaction is to say no, but I recognize this journey isn’t only about me. If it helps bring awareness and help someone else, then I’m all for it,” she said. “I am not a bowler, but it is fun to do. At this point, I hope and have faith that I am cancer-free and that I stay that way. As hard as some of the days have been, I have been so blessed throughout this journey. I am surrounded by my incredible family and a very supportive principal and great faculty.”

With the help of special education specialist Katie McBride, who has bowled in the event before, Team Longview is ready not only to support Kjar in Bonwood Bowl’s lanes, but also to remember “don’t let the turkeys get you down” because in bowling, a turkey is three strikes in a row “and that’s a good score,” Okurmura said.