The first thing that longtime Charleston School District nurse Rhonda Pedigo requested was that she not be the focus of a fundraiser that raises money for cancer programs in the area. 

The issue is that so many people have a ton to say about her. 

Pedigo, who has served Charleston schools as a nurse for 21 years, works at Carl Sandburg Elementary.

Pedigo served as the nurse for many members of the Charleston High School softball team when they were in elementary school.

The impact she had inspired these players to honor Pedigo, diagnosed with breast cancer, at the Strike Out Cancer fundraiser game against Mattoon, schedule for April 1.

“To think these girls are in high school and it’s been a few years since I was their nurse, that they wanted to include me in breast cancer awareness – it was quite an honor,” said Pedigo. “I’m a pretty private person and don’t reach out much about my personal health issues, but for them to just know and care about me and the cause is really humbling. In the end, that’s the focus: breast cancer awareness and it shows their caring nature.”

The team says they are just repaying the favor for all the years they felt cared for when they were younger.

“Mrs. Pedigo is nurturing and is the type of person that is easy to go to – not just because she’s a nurse but because of who she is as a person,” said Kailyn Wilson, a CHS senior. “It’s just her natural persona. Being a nurse seems to be the perfect fit for her. There is no one better to comfort and support another person in pain or not feeling well.”

Last year, Pedigo was diagnosed with breast cancer. She has about two months more of treatments.

Since being diagnosed, the has not been at the school. 

“That’s been the hardest part, not being able to go to work,” said Pedigo. “Not being around the children. That’s why I am a nurse. The kids touched my life.”

Coach Blain Mayhall says Pedigo has an impact on his daughter, Maci. Even nearly a decade later, Mayhall said it’s part of the reason his daughter wants to be a nurse. 

“Rhonda has left an impact on all of the seniors,” said Mayhall. “She had them all at Sandburg and then at least one year at Jefferson. As far as Maci, Rhonda’s role in her young life has pushed Maci into pursuing a degree in nursing. Maci was diagnosed with a seizure disorder in first grade, so Rhonda played a big part in making sure Maci had a safe and enjoyable academic experience.  She also was great during meetings with my wife and I and made us feel like Maci was in great hands. We will forever be grateful for her.”

CHS senior Karah Moore said that Pedigo has a way of making everyone feel safe.

“Mrs. Pedigo was always super happy and made kids smile,” said Moore. “She made lots of kids enjoy being at school because of the effect she had on the school environment overall. She has always been involved in the community and has invested a lot of time and effort into our school district. She has always been more than a school nurse. She was an adult that kids could always look up to and she was someone kids could go to if they need anything.”

It’s been a battle, Pedigo says, but she has a great support system.

“From the teachers to everyone I work with, their support from, not just one school but all the schools, has been very supportive,” said Pedigo. “You never think something like this is going to happen to you. My faith in God has gotten me through this as well as the support from family and friends.”

When Pedigo is honored at the softball game, she hopes everyone walks away remembering the cause. 

“She left an impact on all of them,” said Mayhall. “She is an asset to our district, and I’m proud of our kids for noticing that.  Rhonda isn’t the type of person who wants this attention.  She would rather we focus on the cause of cancer in general.  While we are doing that on a yearly basis, we just feel that this is a small way to show her how much we all appreciate her as a person and to help her in a small way.”

It was the CHS softball players who organized the event.

They never cease to amaze me,” said Mayhall. “I love my seniors very much and a piece of me will be gone when they graduate this year.  I’ve coached all but one since they were nine and all of them since middle school. I’ve witnessed them succeed, fail, and bounce back time and again on and off the field. Being a small part of their lives will always mean more to me than they will ever know. They will all be productive human beings and I’m most proud of that.  This is just one example of the side of them that most people don’t know.”

Shirts for the Strike Out Cancer game will be available for pre-order between Jan. 27-March 3. All softball players will have a paper order form available between Feb. 14-March 15. Cotton shirts will be available for $15 for sizes small to extra large with a $2 extra charge for sizes between 2XL to 4Xl. Drifit shirts will also be available for sizes between extra small to 2XK for $18. 

The softball game will be an Apollo Conference doubleheader with the first game scheduled for 11 a.m.