Racing For Mrs. Alexander

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Knoxville (WVLT) -- Thousands took the streets in Downtown Knoxville on Saturday morning to help make a difference in the fight against Breast Cancer.

Organizers said more than 11,000 eager pairs of feet hit the pavement for the Susan G. Komen Race For The Cure.

To the numerous participants, the only number that mattered was one, that one person they know fighting cancer.

For students and faculty from West Valley Middle School, that one person was a teacher whose cancer had taken out of the classroom.

Among those students was eighth grader, Karlie Leblanc, who laced up to make a difference.

That difference was to run for Mrs. Alexander, and celebrate her fight with the disease.

Leblanc wasn't alone.

More than 100 other West Valley Middle School students, teachers, and parents were entered in the race, running under the name "Alexander's Crusaders."

"I thought, first weekend of fall break, we're not going to have that many turn out," said Shannon Briselden, the teams captain. "As the kids started signing up, it was incredible."

Every step they take helps raise money for research, and helps them celebrate Rikki Alexander.

"She's had cancer once before and she made it through," Leblanc said. "She has it again, but I think she'll make it."

The eight grader raised $250 for the Komen foundation, the most of any student on her team.

"When I set the goal of 2,000 dollars, I thought maybe we'll reach that," Briselden said.

They ended up reaching it and then exceeding it by $300.

All of Alexander's Crusaders acknowledged that their namesake is best known for her hair.

"This is my trademark," Alexander said, "my signature, I guess, it's a bouffant."

With chemotherapy on the way, so are wigs.

Losing her hair doesn't matter much to Mrs. Alexander, she instead seeks to do her job, educate.

"I want them to see that it happens to people and that people deal with it," the teacher said.

Besides trying to help Mrs. Alexander's battle against cancer, the team also won two awards at the race, first place for largest new team and second place for the largest team from a school.

"Their support for me here today has lifted my spirits," Alexander said. "It's just a wonderful sight to see."

Mrs. Alexander hopes to be back in the classroom in March.

On Saturday, she continued sharing the details of her cancer and treatment with her students.

That's because she says it should be a learning experience.

She believes it was the perfect time to build her students vocabulary with words like mastectomy.

Overall, organizers say this year's donations raised more than a quarter million dollars.

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