Like other seniors at Fredericksburg Academy in Fredericksburg, Virginia, Ryan Hudson needed to select a project that dealt with something about which he knew very little and that would in some way help him better himself. When his friend’s father began undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatment for oral cancer in July 2011, he decided that his project would focus on increasing awareness of this disease.

“I saw how hard this experience had hit my friend’s family,” Ryan said, “and so I decided that helping to create awareness about oral cancer could be a good way to make a positive impact on my community.”

Working with materials provided by the Oral Cancer Foundation and advice offered by Susan Lauria, the Foundation’s Event Coordinator, Ryan held Fredericksburg’s First Annual Oral Cancer Walk on April 21. A total of 28 people met on the Academy grounds, where Ryan had t-shirts, wrist bands, and brochures waiting. He had also arranged to have free oral cancer screenings conducted by a hygienist from Culpeper Dental Associates in nearby Culpeper. After a brief talk from Ryan, the participants embarked on a 3-mile walk that was so much fun that everyone decided to take a second lap. And when they returned, they enjoyed refreshments that Ryan had paid for out of his own pocket.

Between the pledges the walkers brought in and donations made by local dental practices, the event raised approximately $2,800 for the Oral Cancer Foundation. Next year, Ryan plans to hold his second annual walk, even though he’ll be a freshman at Hampton Sydney College two-and-a-half hours away.

“I learned a lot about planning and organizing as a result of this experience, and I know I can do so much better next year,” said Ryan. But one aspect of his first year results cannot be improved upon: He received a perfect score of 100 on his senior project.