Jefferson Community Hosts 5K to Raise Money for Teacher with Breast Cancer

Heather Backer has spent 24 years of her life teaching in Jackson County schools, and as she fights a second battle with cancer, the schools are giving back to her. 

Backer, a physical education teacher at Gum Springs Elementary School, was diagnosed with two types of breast cancer in 2015. Since then, she’s undergone chemotherapy, radiation, a double mastectomy and a hysterectomy. 

“I was on medicine for five years…and at some point in time toward the end of that five years, it quit working,” Backer said. 

Backer’s cancer came back in January of 2021. But even during her second treatment, she has continued teaching and coaching at Gum Springs. Now, the school system wants to help her out. 

The Jackson County School System held a blood drive in her honor on Thursday, and on Friday, people across the district wore pink. Saturday morning, the district held the “Bookin’ It For Backer 5K” at Gum Springs Elementary to raise money for Backer’s treatment. The race brought in $18,000, which will go to Backer as she continues treatment. 

The Jackson County School System has supported me through and through, and it’s just absolutely amazing,” Backer said. 

According to the district, more than 400 people ran in the race.

Molly Herrin, who teaches at West Jackson Middle School, got to know Backer through teaching at Gum Springs. She says it was important to come out and support Backer. 

“She’s one of the strongest women I know, and she has three young children, and she’s done so much for the community. So, she deserves all of this love and support,” Herrin said. 

Though the race is over, the district is continuing to raise money for Backer. JCSS will be selling t-shirts from the race until February 16 and more information on how to donate can be found here.

Conner Hendricks and Rachel Branning are journalism majors at the University of Georgia.

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