WINDSOR — Every day during the school week parents pick up and drop off their children at Windsor Elementary School, the words Parker Power emblazoned on the windows above them.

Large, black letters, each in a pane, complete the phrase displayed proudly in the front and back of the school.

Parker Power has also made its way onto window stickers, bracelets and bright orange headbands. It has become the rallying cry for the middle school’s junior varsity girls basketball team each time they break a huddle.

More than anything, the two words have become emblematic of the town’s unwavering support for Parker St. Onge.

A few weeks before Christmas Adam and Nicole St. Onge received the news no parent is ever prepared to deal with: Their son had cancer.

Diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, Parker — a third-grader at Windsor Elementary — began treatment at Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital in Portland.

“We started talking about the side effects and the biggest thing was (losing) the hair, and he just started crying,” Nicole St. Onge said. “He was like, ‘I don’t want to go to school, I don’t want my friends to see me like that.’ He was very embarrassed, and he was like, ‘I don’t know what they’re going to say,’ and he was just really worried that kids were going to make fun of him.”

The St. Onge family knew they lived in a close community, but even they could not predict the outpouring of support that followed, starting with the school that includes kindergarten through eighth grades.

“His teacher and some friends came down to Barbara Bush when he was hospitalized to see him,” Nicole St. Onge said. “Even one of the little girls that couldn’t come down because she had a cold, she picked out one of her own Christmas presents and sent it down to him.”

It did not stop there. Students at the school — some he knew, others he did not — shaved their heads and posted photos to the Parker Power Facebook page. Classmates sent him short video messages or talked with him on FaceTime, while a close friend, Noah Crummett, and his mother, Dominique, ordered enough green Parker Power bracelets for every teacher and student at the school.

From text messages to emails to phone calls, the support bloomed.

“Every student in the school created these little squares to make the most elaborate Christmas card you’ve ever seen,” Kim St. Onge, Parker’s aunt and a fifth-grade teacher at Windsor, said. “It was about two feet tall by two feet wide.”

‘THE KIDS STEPPED UP’

By the time Parker was ready to leave the hospital, he was also ready to return to school.

Both Adam and Nicole St. Onge noted how accommodating the school has been, setting up a cot for Parker so he can rest if he is tired or making extra meals like Ramen noodles — a personal favorite of his — to satiate his increased appetite. But it is the students who have made the difference for Parker.

“The first day at school he was like, ‘Dad, I had 20 people following me, people carrying my lunch and carrying my backpack,'” Adam St. Onge said. “It was the kids. It’s not influenced by anyone else but the kids. The kids stepped up and did it on their own — it’s unbelievable.”

About the same time Noah and Monique Crummett ordered the green bracelets, Jacob Mills, an eighth-grader on the boys basketball team, decided with his teammates to order orange ones — the color associated with leukemia research and fundraising.

Mills took it one step further by shaving his head and getting the words Parker Power shorn into his new haircut.

“We just really wanted to make a difference,” Mills said. “I feel like us not doing this wouldn’t give him as much power and strength to get through this. I feel like us doing this is giving him strength.”

Soon after, the girls basketball team ordered bright orange Parker Power headbands.

“The boys got wristbands and they just got them orange, so we decided our team should do something,” Parker King, a seventh-grader on the girls varsity team, said. “The whole team was in unanimous agreement.”

The girls JV team took it a step further. Each time they break a huddle before the start of a quarter or after a timeout they do not say “team,” “hard work” or any other traditional rallying cry. They shout “Parker Power!”

Junior varsity coach Becky Wilson — who also is the school’s cook — gives a stuffed Wildcat throughout the season to a player who makes a noteworthy play in practice or a game. The Wildcat stayed with Parker over Christmas break.

“We decided to give it to him over vacation because he likes Wildcats, and we wanted to give it to him to make him feel better,” Danielle Shoney, a seventh-grader on the JV team, said.

SPREADING THE WORD

The basketball players also brought attention to the cause. No matter who the opponent, both the Windsor boys and girls teams fielded questions throughout the season from other coaches, players and officials on what Parker Power is.

Word spread.

Rangely is 90 miles northwest of Windsor, but Parker’s story closed the distance. In between games of a doubleheader at Thomas College on Jan. 2 against Islesboro, the Rangeley girls and boys basketball teams gave Parker a jersey signed by all team members and a $500 donation collected from the gate. The Laker girls play for the Class D championship Saturday at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor against Washburn.

“I just kind of felt like this was a neat opportunity that we can do something for somebody local,” Rangeley athletic director Charlie Brown, a former teacher at Windsor Elementary, said. “We decided to go forward with it. Keep it simple, keep it small.”

As the message of Parker Power grows, Parker will continue to fight. Cancer is always synonymous with uncertainty, yet Adam St. Onge said the prognosis is encouraging as they caught the disease early.

As of Wednesday night the GoFundMe site set up by Kim St. Onge had collected nearly $8,000 in donations. She said there is a benefit planned for Saturday from 4:30 to 9 p.m. at the elementary school that will feature a dinner followed by a dance. The proceeds will go to both Parker Power as well as the college fund for two of the children of Dan Tibbetts, a local dairy farmer who passed away in December after a brief battle with brain cancer.

“We thank everybody. Words can’t explain how grateful we are to be in this community to have all these friends and family,” Adam St. Onge said. “It’s just unbelievable. No matter how much I try to explain it in words I can’t. It’s just, thinking about it sometimes almost makes me want to cry. It’s overwhelming.”

The fight against cancer is not over for Parker St. Onge, but it is one he will not face alone. Over the past few months his family, friends and community have made it clear that they are there to support him every step of the way.

“It’s made us all better people,” Mills said. “We’re all caring now — not that we weren’t before — we’re all thoughtful, we’re all thinking of him all the time. Whenever things like this come up, we’re always right at it, trying to think of things that we can do to help.”

Evan Crawley — 621-5640

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Twitter: @Evan_Crawley