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Fundraiser Held for Milan Teacher with Brain Cancer

By Natalie Potts
By Npotts@wbbjtv.com

RUTHERFORD, Tenn. - More than 100 residents in Rutherford gathered Sunday to participate in a Zumba fundraiser for Milan Elementary School Teacher Kristie Wilke, who was recently diagnosed with a severe brain tumor.

"It's just kind of traumatizing because she is so young and it's just something that you don't really expect," said friend Sheena Grant.

Kristie's stepmother Elaine Riggins told WBBJ 7 Eyewitness News the kindergarten teacher was diagnosed with high grade astrocytoma shortly after doctors found an aggressive brain tumor. Riggins said her daughter had complained of strong headaches for years, and had them checked out when the migraines became increasingly worse.

"We knew that something was wrong with her having these terrible headaches, she couldn't even function, we knew something was wrong," said Riggins.

The 37-year-old has been a teacher at Milan Elementary School since 2005. School parents said students love her class.

"Oh she is just great. She loves her kids, she treats them like they are her own and my son loves her to death," said Grant.

In an effort to help the Wilke family, friends, family, students and parents came together to sell t-shirts, bracelets and door prizes in a Zumbathon, Sunday. Organizers said the event raised more than $1,700. Residents said the event also showcased their small town love and support.

"We've all been touched by cancer. I lost my mother and father many years ago with cancer," said participant Edith Carlton. "Anything you can do to help somebody else in that situation, especially a young person like Kristie that's been here in our community and has young children, is just a great event."

Family members said knowing that there are people who care in their small knit community, helps to heal families that are hurting.

"Most of the time it comes at a time when you think I'm down and out and it will come at a specific time when you really need it," said Riggins. "I'd say to everyone, from the bottom of my heart thank you, because I feel like she would say the same thing. If Kristie were here, she would be very overwhelmed."

Family members said Kristie has had 75 percent of her tumor removed at a hospital in Minnesota. She is expected to return to Tennessee Monday where she will begin her next round of chemotherapy treatment in Nashville.

If you would like to help the Wilke Family, contact the Temple Baptist Church in Milan.

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