Local elementary school teacher launches merchandise line to support cancer awareness, philanthropy


Courtesy of Garrison Wollam

Garrison Wollam wears a “Cancer is Dumb” sweatshirt from his campaign.

Anthony Zacharyasz, Reporter

A husband, father, teacher, entrepreneur and cancer patient are all titles that one local man is linked to.

Garrison Wollam, a third grade teacher at Holden Elementary School in Kent, is entering into his 16th year of teaching, but in 2019 Wollam said he was not feeling well for a while and was dealing with extreme exhaustion and swollen lymph nodes. He later found out through blood work testing he had “irregularities.”

Garrison was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia as an adult, which is a common form of pediatric cancer, and has had to endure its battles that come along with it. His light-hearted sense of humor and sarcasm made him joke around about cancer, giving him a reason to smile and laugh about it rather than “[crying] instead.”

Garrison and his family are now on a mission toward bringing awareness to cancer, wanting to bring light to a dark condition. He launched a cancer awareness campaign called “Cancer is Dumb” earlier this year in February.

The idea of  “Cancer is Dumb” was created as a way for Garrison and his wife, Chrissy Wollam, a second-grade teacher at Longcoy Elementary in Kent, to deal with the seriousness of cancer, Garrison said.

Garrison Wollam and his family. (Courtesy of Garrison W0llam)

Saying “Cancer is Dumb” is a way the couple can smile with one another during Garrison’s trying time. By saying “Cancer is Dumb,” it is “such a statement that no one can disagree with,” Chrissy said.

The Wollam family’s campaign made its way online with an Instagram page and website. An organization that is close to Garrison is St. Jude Children’s Hospital, which he donated to for years prior to his diagnosis.

Now, 20 percent of all proceeds from his website are donated to St. Jude. Garrison said he still continues to make monthly personal donations to St. Jude to help those children and their families who are in need.

The first month that Garrison was able to donate to St. Jude, he raised $68.84. Now, the merchandise line raised $196.85 during the months of February and March.

Garrison said during the two month period, he has made calls to St. Jude with his students present in the classroom and made the donations for that month with his students there, so they can see the charity work being done.

“[Calling St. Jude] is really important to me,” Garrison said. “I think that [the students] benefit from seeing people giving back.”

On the website there are different products to buy with Garrison’s saying “Cancer is Dumb” on the front. Those products vary from sweatshirts to socks to pin buttons, where Wollam said his daughter designed the logo that is on all the products.

Garrison said that his students and their parents at the school, along with former high school classmates and co-workers have taken part in the campaign by purchasing items with the slogan “Cancer is Dumb” on them. Students in Garrison’s class have even worn “Cancer is Dumb” shirts to school, which Garrison said, “is pretty cool.”

Chrissy said the support the Wollam family received has been “an outpouring of support from both [elementary] buildings, family members and Seidman Cancer Center.”

Seidman Cancer Center is where Garrison spent 34 consecutive nights back in 2019 where he was taken care of when he was first diagnosed. Chrissy said Garrison has received over 100 chemo treatments and continues to have check-ups at Seidman Cancer Center.

This process that Garrison had to go through allowed him to see the good in people, while also being grateful for being “upwards” and “alive” each day.

“It has also changed my own perspective on a lot of things, being content with your life and being thankful for having it everyday,” Garrison said. “You really do not know what tomorrow could bring and being thankful for it today is [a] really, really good thing.”

One of the biggest things that kept Garrison motivated is Chrissy, Garrison said.

“She has kept me alive and is more responsible for keeping me alive than anything and she [is] always the most supportive person in my life,” he said.

On top of the website and social media posts, Garrison said he tries to sponsor local youth teams where on the back of the children’s jerseys, they are allowed to pick a loved one to honor.

Also during his recovery period, Garrison began writing children’s books and allowed his son to be his illustrator. Some children’s books include: “Daddy’s Orange Bracelet,” “Buster Sluggless Learns His Lesson” and “Boogers, Bugs, and Hugs from Slugs.”

“This was a bucket list goal and something I hope my son always remembers,” Garrison said.

For those interested in supporting and contributing toward “Cancer is Dumb,” check out its website to view their entire catalog and contact information.

Anthony Zacharyasz is a reporter. Contact him at [email protected]