MCKINNEY, Texas - A McKinney teacher battling cancer got some help she didn't expect that came thanks to a program at McKinney Boyd High School.
The program is called “Purple Out." Every year, the football team surprises people who are battling cancer in McKinney ISD with money to help pay their expenses. This year, they helped five people.
Lauren Legleiter is a special education teacher at McNeil Elementary. She was at school with her students two years ago when she got the diagnosis, tongue cancer. It was not in her family history and was unexpected based on her lifestyle.
"My doctors have said, ‘You just have bad luck,’” she recalled. “It's like the wind is knocked out of you. You don't think that it's true."
Surgery took out the tumor, and she was cancer free for a year until it came back in September, bigger and more aggressive. This time around, she needed chemo.
"I had times where I would literally go into the bathroom at school and cry,” she said. “I had times where I was in front of my kids and I would be reaching back for something and I had hair come out into my hands."
Another special education teacher at school saw her struggle and nominated her for a program that could help.
"She thinks she deserves nothing,” said Sarah Cromwell, Legleiter’s colleague. “But she will give everything to anybody that needs anything, especially her students."
Each October, the McKinney Boyd High School football team rallies students to raise money for teachers battling cancer.
“There's people out there that they're not asking for our help, but we're going to give it to them,” explained McKinney Boyd Athletic Director Done Drake.
Purple Out was started by Drake. In the past five years, the project has raised about $60,000 and has helped more than a dozen teachers. He has a saying he imparts on his players: MTH -- meaner, tougher, harder.
“Cause life doesn't always deal you the cards you want, and it's not always fair,” Drake said.
"You kind of don't really know how tough you have to be until life gives you the situation,” said Legleiter. “And that's the only thing that you can do is be tough."
Earlier this month, the Boyd football team showed up in Legleiter’s special ed class with a check for $2,000. She's still not sure she's deserving, but she is grateful.
"These people do not know me. I am in their community, but that's it. They don't know me and they don't owe me anything,” she said. “It makes it worth it, and it makes it easier to me."
Lauren just found out she is cancer free. She still has to undergo seven weeks of chemo and radiation to help make sure it will not come back again.
People at McKinney Boyd are now starting to plan next year's Purple Out events.