UNSTOPPABLE MOM ON THE MOVE
February 07, 2013
In the midst of a busy life, it’s often a challenge to squeeze in volunteering. Toni Huff in tiny Milton, Ky. (population 525), looks to have it all figured out. The newly minted PTO president at Milton Elementary is raising two children, holds down a part-time job, and even trained for and ran a marathon last year. Oh, and one other significant detail: She’s currently battling cancer.
Huff began volunteering in her daughter’s 1st grade class. “I’d go in for an hour and then I’d look around and see so many other things that needed to be done. Pretty soon I was spending the whole day at school,” she says. She read to students, traced and cut materials, made photocopies—basically whatever she was to do. That kind of dedication didn’t go unnoticed, and it wasn’t long before she was approached about becoming PTO president. After giving it some thought, Huff agreed to it—but then life threw her a curveball. In February 2012 she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer.
Some people might be inclined to scale back outside responsibilities in the face of serious illness, but not Huff. While undergoing chemotherapy, she continued to report to her part-time bookkeeping job and regularly showed up to volunteer at Milton Elementary. She took on the PTO presidency for the 2012-13 school year even though she’s currently following a course of radiation treatment.
“Honestly, I don’t think backing out ever crossed my mind, and I don’t think it crossed anyone else’s mind. School staff and fellow board members have been so supportive,” she says. Proof positive of that support was on display one morning in May when Huff was greeted in front of the school by a line of teachers all wearing pink “Team Toni” T-shirts.
Huff has never been one to back down from a challenge. In her early forties, she took up running after a lifetime of relative inactivity. Four years later, in November 2011, she ran an entire marathon, completing it in just over six hours. Much to her disappointment, running is on a back burner for now per doctors’ orders; however, that didn’t prevent her from walking a half-marathon in May following her diagnosis, while simultaneously undergoing chemotherapy. She’s looking forward to resuming training in January and running a half-marathon next year.
One begins to wonder if there’s anything this woman can’t do. Helping to organize the school’s annual Fish Fry and Auction—a huge fundraising event with a history of more than 50 years—is one item on the PTO’s list this year. A lot of seasonal events dot the calendar as well: a Halloween event, Valentine’s Day Candy Grams, a springtime egg hunt with a scholarly twist, and a special end-of-the-year musical performance. Huff will oversee it all. She also plans to continue her work with the Backpack for Kids program, which discreetly provides extra food to students who need it. And on any given day, you’ll likely find her volunteering in a classroom or chaperoning a field trip.
“I often think I get more out of my volunteering than the kids do. I’m just so blessed to be around all those little ones,” Huff says. She readily admits that the children’s eager upturned faces have helped her in her fight against cancer.
Everyone is glad Huff is the type who rises to a challenge. In helping students and staff at Milton Elementary, she’s also helped herself. From all perspectives, it’s a pretty great thing.
Writer: June Allan Corrigan
Photo credit: Steve Rizzo