PHOENIX (3TV/CBS5) - It takes a back pocket full of plastic forks, and a lot of courage for anybody to ride herd over a couple hundred energetic, second-through-fifth graders.
Just keeping them happy and in line during their daily trip to a loud, but controlled lunchroom is an uphill climb, to say the least.
But it just somehow comes naturally for Towne Meadows Elementary School principal Chip Pettit, who says, "This job and this school has basically kept me moving forward and as healthy as can be."
And when he says it's the best part of his week nowadays, he means it.
Pettit says, "Each week, when I have chemo, I'm off Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and my goal is to be back here Monday ready to go."
Diagnosed with colon cancer at 36, Pettit, now just shy of 40, is battling and winning his third go around with this horrific disease.
Colorectal cancer is the third most common and the second deadliest form of cancer in America.
The school and the entire Gilbert community has taken up this battle with Pettit, covering the school campus with these blue ribbons, support for Pettit that he feels is priceless.
Pettit says, "They do little things for us all the time. Little motivation things for us all the time. This community is amazing to me and my family."
"Chip is an amazing principal and he is all about the kids," says former coworker Sheri Hummel. The retired teacher helped gather a huge team from Towne Meadows and other schools to participate in last year's Phoenix Undy Run/Walk. Instead of a race t-shirt, the family-friendly event, held this year on Saturday, November 17, is a chance to run or walk in boxer shorts to fund critical research and to raise awareness of the disease.
Hummel marvels, "To look at him, he looks extremely healthy; he looks extremely athletic. And he doesn't appear sick. yet he is still battling a very serious disease."
Hummel says, "I think the kids are so positive with him and they just give him joy on the days that he is not here, he can't wait to get back. They inspire him and he inspires them."
"We all jump on board, we all walk or we run and we raise funds." said Hummel. "He had said just the other day. I wish their was a magic pill to make this all go away. And I told him that is what time and fundraising is all about. Hopefully he is so young in his lifetime, hopefully that will be a reality."
"They don't need to know all the bad stuff. I mean we focus on the awesome here. It's our theme and that's our team name," says Pettit.
And when it comes to his appearance, Pettit remarked, "They're always like, 'you haven't lost your hair-you look fine.' That's the point. I want to make sure that they know battling cancer can just be something I do, but I can also still do my job."
An inspiration for his family, his students, his staff and for the entire colon cancer community.
To register for this year's event, click 2018 Phoenix Undy Run/Walk.