SURRY—At the age of 34, Rosanna McFarland, a teacher at Surry School, took her last breath after a hard-fought battle with breast cancer. The beloved teacher began her career at the Brooksville Elementary School before becoming the Title One Reading Recovery Specialist in Surry. She died Feb. 27, leaving behind a husband and child, as well as a lasting legacy centered around literacy.
Reading was central to McFarland’s life but, in her death, is something that will link her to the lives of Surry (and beyond) children for decades to come by a program called Rosanna’s Readers. The program, which gives a book to students on their birthday, began in Surry, but has recently sprouted up in Brooksville where McFarland began her teaching career, as well as in Brooklin, the town in which she grew up.
Rosanna’s Readers was conceptualized by McFarland shortly before her death, said Dawn McLaughlin, a friend and part of the School Union 93 administration team. As friends and colleagues looked for ways to help McFarland during her cancer journey, said McLaughlin, she wanted nothing for herself. Instead, she thought about reading, and providing a gift to others.
“When we got word of her idea, a team of teachers got together and immediately got to work to make this happen,” said Surry teacher Paige Osgood.
The community has also rallied around the reading program, said Osgood. Last month, DragonFire Pizza in Ellsworth held a fundraiser that netted $1,000 for the program, and other “donations have been coming in from all over the county,” she said.
Most recently, a quilt made by McLaughlin in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, taking place this month, is being offered by raffle for Union 93 staff, friends and family with proceeds going to the program. The pink and white quilt, which features the universal pink ribbon symbol on its fabric, took months to make, said McLaughlin, but for her, it was also about closure. A friend and colleague, McLaughlin said she wanted to do something to honor McFarland, so she drew on her skills as a quilter and got to work designing and crafting the 40- by 50-inch quilt. “This was something unique that I could do,” she said, adding that she worked on it over the course of months, but put in a final push over the last two weeks to have it ready for the auction.
Donations for the reading program may be sent to Surry Elementary School, 764 North Bend Road, Surry, ME 04684. Put Rosanna’s Readers in the memo line.