Canton Central School

The staff at Canton Central School understands it takes a village to battle cancer, and they take that saying seriously when it comes to supporting students in need. 

Ridge Thorbahn

The school community provided former students Ridge Thorbahn and Sami Curtis with endless support through their battle with the cancer, up until their last days. 


Ridge battled cancer for two years before the 21-year-old passed away in 2011.


“Ridge was a great person. He had a wonderful personality and contagious smile. He always put others before himself,” said Paula Jones, a fifth grade teacher at the school and member of the Canton Central Teacher's Association. “He had tremendous courage and strength.”

A football player, Ridge had the opportunity to establish relationships with multiple members of the school community, including Athletic Director Bill Porter. Bill is also a Canton Central Teacher's Association member.

Bill Porter

“Ridge was a young man that I held in high regard because of the person he was,” Bill said. “Although he had a large frame and strong body, I just knew that deep down he was a person of solid character and sort of a softy. The kind of kid who wanted to get an engineering degree from Clarkson so he could make enough money to one day buy his mom a home. The kind of person who, when we needed to move the football three yards during a game, Ridge would get us four. The kind of man who literally, while he in the last 30 minutes of his life, attempted to comfort a family member who he was speaking with on the phone. The kind of man who loved his life and the people in it. I was fortunate to know him. He made me a better human being.”

Despite his diagnosis, the faculty tried to teach Ridge to remain optimistic and stay positive, and in return Ridge taught the school community to enjoy life. 


"We taught him to always do your best no matter what curve ball life throws at you," Paula said. "He taught us to live life to the fullest."


The community suffered another loss in May 2017 when Sami Curtis passed from a two-year battle with cancer. Sami was a 2016 graduate of Canton Central and played an active role in the community. A member of the St. Lawrence County Cancer Fund Board of Directors and annual participant in the Edward I. Moses Walk/Run for Life, she was dedicated to raising money for the cause. In 2016 she was awarded the New York State Senate’s Liberty Award for raising more than $100,000 towards the fight against cancer.


"We have a huge role in student's lives, but here is the kicker - their role in our lives is just as valuable," Bill said. "We learn from our students everyday. That's why it's so sad when these dreaded diseases attacks one of them. It's even more heartbreaking when that fight is lost." 


Paula Jones

Another student, Zach Hamilton, continues to battle cancer with the support of the school community behind him.


 “I feel we have a supportive and nurturing community environment at our school,” Paula said. “The school district needs to have good communication and an understanding of the physical needs of the student. We need to help and support the student any way we can. Students here feel safe, connected, and engaged, and this creates positive teacher-student interactions.”


And it’s that supportive and nurturing environment that makes Canton Central so special. 

“We have a huge role with the development of these young people, and therefore a tremendous responsibility,” Bill said. “The key component to providing a sound educational experience is to be ourselves and show that we care about our students and our athletes. Our staff is comprised of caring people who treat their students as family. How would any family member behave when a loved one is stricken with cancer? That is a school district's role in my opinion - to treat these kids as family and to do anything to help him/her and their family through these tough times.” 


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