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Campton Hills preschool surprises teacher battling breast cancer

CAMPTON HILLS – As emergency sirens wailed outside Swing Set Preschool on Tuesday afternoon and people shouted at her to get outside, teacher Lisa Clark thought there was a fire.

But once outside the Campton Hills school, she realized the commotion – which centered around a visit from the Pink Heals Chicagoland fire engine – was all for her.

“Oh my goodness,” Clark said, “my heart is beating out of my chest.”

Clark, who is in her 12th year with the preschool, recently finished radiation treatment for breast cancer. She was diagnosed in October.

Pink Heals supports women and their families. It uses the color pink to represent them, not to represent a specific disease.

Joel Mains of the Chicagoland chapter said the group does what it can to put a smile on someone’s face for at least a day.

Clark said she was “absolutely overwhelmed” by the gesture and noted that support from Swing Set has been phenomenal. It’s been a rough six months, she said, adding she has had to take time off of work.

“I don’t know how I would have done it without my school,” she said, also including her husband and children among her supporters.

Maggie Hoepfner was among the parents who took part in the surprise. She said this is the second year her 5 1/2-year-old son has had Clark as a teacher.

“We love her,” she said.

She described Clark as gentle and loving but not a doormat.

“She’s like a mom,” Hoepfner said. “She’s been so tough, too [during her illness].”

After the initial surprise wore off, Mains guided Clark to the fire engine so she could add her signature among the others covering the vehicle. Clark said she chose a spot near a handle as a nod to her inability to sit up and get off the couch on her own after receiving treatment.

“You get a whole new appreciation for life when you beat something like this,” she said.

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