LAURENS COUNTY, Ga. — Friday night, Johnson County will take on East Laurens County on the football field.
It's always a big game when these two border rivals get together. There might be a lot of tears in the stadium as the students fight for something bigger than football.
Football in Georgia -- boy, we love our rivalry games. They're a chance to talk smack and just hate on the other side, but this year, the Falcons and the Trojans have something in common.
Glyenda Toler has terminal cancer.
"I was diagnosed in 2018 with stage four colon cancer. It metastasized into some lymph nodes into my liver," she explained.
In a 30-year span, she taught at East Laurens and Johnson County.
Brittany Padgett is a senior at East Laurens.
"Whenever we heard the diagnosis for Miss Toler, we were all sad about it, and we were thinking of ways to help her and help her family," she said, "And it's just been a long journey and we've been hoping for the best for her."
The kids did more than hope for the best.
"The T-shirts, we are selling them at Johnson County and East Laurens, and it's just a benefit where all the money is going to go to the family because we know they need it a lot," Brittany said.
Cancer is costly, but you can't put a price on how Mrs. Toler has made an imprint on everyone she meets.
Lesli Pope bought three T-shirts
"She was a fabulous mentor to me when I came to the high school," Pope said. "Then we had the opportunity to co-teach together and she just became like another mother to me. She is the most spiritual person I know."
Mrs. Pope couldn't go on with the interview -- she just got too emotional -- and that's not uncommon around here when folks are talking about Mrs. Toler. That's because she's humble. She said she can't believe both communities would come together for her.
"Kids are authentic and they're real, and for them to get together to remember me, it touches me and there are no words to explain what that means to me, because there is passion in their rivalry, and for them to put their rivalry aside and say, 'We're going to agree on this,' it means the world," Glyenda said.
Toler says she's not going to give up fighting, and, sure, T-shirts can't cure cancer, but they're a token of hope.
"I'm at a stage where I believe and I would tell my students to believe and never give up your goals, and I'm not going to do any differently in this fight and I appreciate them joining me in the fight of my life because, as hard as they play on the field, they're doing that and extending the love towards me," Glyenda said.
Football is hard-hitting and gritty, and yet, is a symbol of a bigger fight where two rivals and one special person can come together.
The students will make the check presentation at the game Thursday night. They hope to raise $5,000 through the sale of the T-shirts.
They've also named Mrs. Toler as an honorary captain.
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