Cancer Fighters distribute PPE to students at Nieto Herrera Elementary

Nellie De La Cruz hands personal protective gear to Marley Johnson at Wednesday’s distribution of school supplies and personal protective equipment. The elementary school students visited campus to check out new library books. (Karla M. Enriquez | Signal Tribune)

Armed with 200 sets of personal protective gear, Cancer Fighters gave the gift of pandemic safety to students at Nieto Herrera Elementary on Wednesday, March 24. 

This marks the second time Cancer Fighters, a local group performing random acts of kindness in the community, gives back to the children at the school, having hosted a Christmas gift distribution in 2020.

See related: Cancer Fighters look back on a year of generosity

Under the bright morning sun, students and their parents lined up to check out library books, also making a stop at the Cancer Fighters station to receive two sets of masks and hand sanitizer. 

The white cloth masks, emblazoned with the Nieto Herrera logo, were made by Nellie De La Cruz, who is a student at the school and one of the leading forces behind Cancer Fighters.

“She thinks big,” Principal Claire Fieri said of De La Cruz’s determination to make 200 masks for her schoolmates. “She had to work really hard over the last few weeks to get it ready and in addition to that she is doing her distance learning, she helps out with her siblings and she just has that ‘I’ll do it, it’s going to be hard, but I got this [mentality].’”

Cancer Fighters distributed hand sanitizer and two types of masks to elementary school children who were checking out books at the Nieto Herrera School Library. The fabric face masks with the school’s logo were made by Nellie De La Cruz. (Karla M. Enriquez | Signal Tribune)

Currently, Long Beach Unified School District students are completing a year of distance learning due to the pandemic with elementary schools slated to return to in-person instruction on March 29. 

See related: Long Beach Unified School District elementary schools to now open March 29

Wanting to offer the school one of her last acts of kindness as a student before moving on to middle-school, De La Cruz with the support of her parents, began organizing the giveaway.

“I just wanted to give back since this is my last year coming to this school,” De La Cruz said. “I just feel like this school has done a lot for me, so I just want to give back and help.”

De La Cruz approached Fieri, who has been supporting her since the early days of Cancer Fighters, with the idea of giving students the protective gear a month ago.

“So she reached out to me to say, ‘I just want to do something for our school, I just want to give back to the students.’ She said […] ‘I want to leave behind the spirit of giving and something that students would appreciate and know that everyone can make a difference,'” Fieri said.

Brian Castillo receives personal protective gear from Nellie De La Cruz. De La Cruz, a fifth-grader at Nieto Herrera Elementary, wanted to gift her schoolmates one more time before she moves on to middle-school. (Karla M. Enriquez | Signal Tribune)

Fieri stood next to De La Cruz handing out drawstring bags donated by LBUSD and the City of Long Beach, to students. 100 bags with school supplies from Staples were also distributed.

Thinking of ways to enhance a student’s home learning experience, the school included headphones inside the gifted drawstring bags.

Adrian Avila (left) and Juan Avila (right) were among the students who picked up their gifted supplies at Nieto Herrera Elementary. (Karla M. Enriquez | Signal Tribune)

“It’s just a way to say thank you to families because everyone has had challenges this year,” Fieri said.

Fieri noted that although De La Cruz and Cancer Fighters have faced challenges much like everyone else due to the pandemic, the spirit of giving has not wavered.

“Tons of challenges in her young world, but she just keeps giving back,” the principal said.

Nellie De La Cruz, 11, has been one of the leading forces behind Cancer Fighters. A fifth-grade student at Nieto Herrera, De La Cruz wanted to take one of her final chances to give back as a student at the school. (Karla M. Enriquez | Signal Tribune)

Cancer Fighters has been performing random acts of kindness, such as donating care packages to doctors and nurses at St. Mary Medical Center, since early 2020. They have also hosted a slew of awareness events for diseases and health conditions.

“Nellie and her team of Cancer Fighters […] they do such good things around their neighborhood, community, people in general,” Fieri said. […] “Hopefully it inspires one of the [elementary school students] to think of projects and ways to give back,” she said of the latest distribution.

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