FRIDLEY, Minn. - A Kleenex is necessary for anybody watching the surprise video created for a Totino Grace High School student recently re-diagnosed with brain cancer.
Nearly 1,000 staff members and students lined the halls holding signs, roaring with shouts and cheers timed to the tune of Katy Perry's "Roar."
Rachel Woell, 17, just completed radiation for a tumor in her brain stem. She's fought brain cancer half her life after battling another brain tumor in elementary school.
"It really shook me and I remember I woke up and couldn't sleep and said we have to do something, we have to do something," said Theresa Lienau, Totino Grace Theology teacher and Woell's speech coach.
Then, the idea came to Lienau in the middle of the night. She enlisted the help of fellow speech coach and school librarian Colleen O'Neil, who did hours of camera work and editing in the video. She created it from the perspective of Woell walking down the halls of the school to a cheering crowd.
"I was dubbed Colleen Spielberg. It was funny," said O'Neil. "The message was to show her she was loved and supported."
In the video, the hockey team created a human tunnel for Woell, while the football team, where she serves as team manager, flashed heart signs with their hands. The procession continued with more students singing, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." The teachers lined up the hundreds of students with the help of a bullhorn, blasting the music.
The video was done with one long take and was revealed to Woell in a surprise special assembly where students wore T-shirts in her honor and prayed for her.
"There was a whole bunch of people chanting with my name," said Woell. "I was just shocked."
Lienau and O'Neil watched Woell take it in with a few tears and a big smile, which also moved them to tears.
"She has an undying spirit. She is always so positive even when she is tired and beat and I am sure overwhelmed by everything that is going on. Every day is a fight," said Lienau. "I have hard days and tough days and it's nothing in comparison to what Rachel does, and she grabs our hand and just remember, today is a gift and she reminds us of that."
Jamie Woell says the support for his daughter has been instrumental in the second diagnosis.
"You know it, but you don't know it until you get it. For us, including Rachel, that was just a special day," said Jamie Woell.
Woell will continue care with an oncology team and will continue school. She's been in class nearly every day of radiation.
"This whole thing has been an obstacle course. I just want to thank Totino Grace and everybody else. Thank you for praying for me and helping me along the way. It really means a lot to me," said Woell.
(Copyright Gannett 2013)