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Kids Can Make a Difference: Zach Hughey Raises Money for Teacher Battling Cancer


By Alicia Dziak

Helping others is not a job reserved only for adults. Kids can play a huge part in the betterment of the community, and that’s just what Springville Middle School’s “Kids Can Make a Difference Project is all about.

Springville’s seventh grade students are assigned their projects in the fall with very loose parameters. They are charged with finding a cause or organization that is meaningful to them and to work with it over the course of the school year. How the kids contribute to the organization and the project is left up to them.

Zach Hughey, 13, is one such student who has used his project as an opportunity to make an impact in his local community by raising money for his 6th grade ELA teacher, Cindy Johnson, who is currently battling cancer.

“Zach’s aunt, Elisa Hughey (from Ellicottville) is struggling with cancer, so with her in mind, Zach selected Cancer Treatment Centers of America to research for his 7th grade project,” explained Zach’s mom, Kristin. “When it came time to consider a fundraiser that focused on helping those with cancer, he thought this school project should help someone at school.”

Zach thought of Mrs. Johnson.

“He knew his classmates worried about Mrs. Johnson’s health just like he worries about his aunt,” Kristin said.

Zach decided he wanted to hold a fundraiser for some much-needed funds to go toward the much-needed treatments and travel expenses associated with Johnson’s care.

“I remembered visiting SkyZone over Christmas break and another school was doing a fundraiser there, and it looked like a cool idea,” Zach explained.

SkyZone is an indoor trampoline park near the Buffalo airport.

“I emailed SkyZone to find out how to do it,” he said. “Then I made some flyers and wrote announcements to let everyone know.  We needed to get at least 50 people to make money.” (Once a minimum of 50 people were reached, SkyZone donated a percentage of the proceeds to Zach’s cause.)

“Once he had the idea, SkyZone was very easy to work with.  Zach got approval from the principal to make and hang flyers and wrote morning announcements to advertise the event,” Kristin said. “The school exploded with excitement over the idea, and several teachers jumped in to help take things to the next level. District buses were made available to transport students who needed it. Teachers volunteered to draft permission slips, collect waivers and take care of other logistics. It was amazing to see everyone come together to help.”

The original date of the event was the Springville district’s only snow day of the year, but it was quickly rescheduled for an evening in March.

“There were 98 kids who came on the busses, and lots more came with their families,” Zach explained. “We raised $1,011!”

Zach noted that afterwards, he “felt good about helping Mrs. Johnson.”

His mom added that the fundraiser) “was a huge success!  Not because it raised money, but because it let Mrs. Johnson know how much she is cared for by her school, and because it gave these young students an opportunity to contribute and feel a little less helpless.”

When asked what advice he would give to other kids who want to make a difference in the world, Zach advised: “Start by picking a cause you’re interested in or have strong feelings about.  Research information and find out more about it.”  He added that, “It is important to show kids how good it feels to help people.”

On Sunday, April 24, there will be another benefit for Cindy Johnson at Springville Fire Hall from 3-7 p.m. Tickets (available at the door) are $20; children 12 and under are free. There will be music by the Ozone Rangers, food and beverages, raffles, a Chinese auction and kids’ activities. For more info, visit the event’s Facebook page.

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