Teacher puckers up for good cause

Published 10:39 am Saturday, April 25, 2009

SEDLEY—Miss Piggy was feeling the love on Friday.

The pig, who on most days can be found on Nacy Evans’ farm near Ivor, was brought to the playground at Nottoway Elementary School for a “pig kissing,” the main event after several days of fundraising for the March of Dimes.

Faculty and students craned to get a good view of Miss Piggy getting smooched by math resource teacher Karl Harrison, who received the most votes by students for the honor.

Harrison looked visibly nervous as the moment approached.

Asked if he was ready to pucker up, Harrison said, “I don’t know. I’ve never been around an animal in my life. I retired from Newport News two years ago and came to Southampton County for a more rural situation. Every morning, they had my coffee ready when I would walk into Starbucks in Newport News.”

He smiled and sighed. “Little did I know, two years later I would be kissing a pig.”

The fundraising effort was for the March of Dimes and its Western Tidewater ambassador, Rachel Blythe of Courtland, 3, who is a pre-kindergarten student at the school.

“She’s a beautiful little girl who just melts everybody’s heart,” said Nottoway Elementary School principal Debra Hicks. “The students, faculty and staff love her immensely. You can just look at her and smile. She has a heart of gold and the children here are really committed to her.”

Added Harrison, “I’d have taken a sick day for her.”

Susan Fowler, special education teacher for fourth- and fifth-grade students at Nottoway, and organizer of this year’s fundraising efforts for the March of Dimes, said the school has raised about $2,500.

A softball match on Wednesday between the teachers and fifth-grade students raised about $200, Fowler said, with students paying $1 per ticket to the game. Friday’s events included face painting, tattoos, drinks, pizza and movies. Teachers also paid $5 per day for the privilege of wearing jeans to school. On May 17, the group “Rachel’s Cougar Babies” will be walking in the March for Babies event at Barrett’s Landing in Franklin.

But the pig kissing was the main event.

According to Fowler, Nottoway students paid 25 cents per vote for the pig kissing during the week. Harrison said he found out that he had “won” on Thursday.

“I kept hoping (somebody else would win), but I think the kids are amazed at the fact that I haven’t been around animals,” Harrison chuckled. “This ought to be well worth the price of admission.”

According to information from the March of Dimes, Rachel is the daughter of Dwayne and Kim Blythe of Courtland. She was born 14 weeks early, and weighed two pounds, 10 ounces at birth.

Although Rachel does not yet walk or talk, she scoots across the floor to go where she wants, and recently had surgery on her right foot to help loosen muscles in that leg. She is also learning some sign language from a therapist.

“Even though she has a disability, that does not stop her at all,” Hicks said.