DERRY — A pair of retiring teachers hope to honor the memories of two students who made big impressions on their school community and left this life way too soon.
Barbara Dupont and Audrey Allen, teachers at West Running Brook Middle School, are spearheading an effort to raise money to create an outdoor classroom/garden space in memory of Alanna Marcotte and Lauren Grella.
Alanna died of cancer in 2014 at the age of 13 while a sixth-grader at West Running Brook. Lauren was only 11 when she died years earlier, also of cancer.
The teachers say they recall each student's zest for life and want to make sure they are remembered after they complete their teaching time at West Running Brook.
Dupont has taught at the school for 22 years. Allen has taught in the Derry district for 32 years. Both teach social studies and both say having the two girls as students is something they won't ever forget.
While Alanna and Lauren were battling cancer, the school community was very supportive, they say.
West Running Brook held events where teachers and staff shaved their heads to support Alanna. Lauren's memory is still strong for friends and family members who often run marathons or do special events with her name pinned to their shirts.
"The impact of these two girls in the community, the community remembers," Dupont said.
And while battling cancer, both Alanna and Lauren wanted to be at school.
"These girls wanted to be here, even when they were battling so much," Dupont said.
To this day, the teachers say they hear memories of both Alanna and Lauren.
"And this school is a close-knit community," Dupont added. "They still remember."
Allen and Dupont recalled the days after losing Alanna and Lauren and how students rose to the occasion to not only support each other, but their teachers.
Allen said the Alanna had a positive, bright attitude, even through her most painful challenges. Lauren, with her wavy shock of dark hair, always had a bright smile. Both girls loved the outdoors, Allen said.
"Lauren loved ladybugs," Allen said.
Alanna just wanted to breathe the fresh air, the teachers recalled, saying she would be very proud of the outdoor plan.
The school and community have been very supportive, with fundraisers planned and a Facebook page to help raise the money to create the space.
Some events planned could include a color run at the school or a bowling party, the teachers said. In lieu of retirement parties, both teachers hope people will support the outdoor classroom.
A fundraiser at La Carreta restaurant in Londonderry is also planned for March 25.
Donations can be sent to West Running Brook Middle School, 1 West Running Brook Drive, Derry, N.H. 03038 or visit https://www.facebook.com/donate/886394991791524/?fundraiser_source=external_url.