SHERMAN OAKS - Hope is alive and well at Millikan Charter Middle School.
That's where students hope to raise $2,000 over the next month to benefit St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
That's where budding costume designers are sewing cuddly quilts for young cancer patients at Children's Hospital Los Angeles.
And that's where instructional aide and cancer survivor Kim Estrada is embarking on her second annual campaign to raise money for and awareness about the nation's second-leading cause of death.
"It's everyone's responsibility to give back to the community," Estrada said Monday. "Not doing anything is not an option."
Estrada, 36, speaks candidly about her diagnosis six years ago with invasive breast cancer, and the surgery, radiation and chemotherapy that followed.
"When you get a diagnosis like that, you can do one of two things," she said. "You can crawl under a bed. Or you can get out and do something."
She openly shared her experiences with colleagues and students, and eventually launched the "Stand up to Cancer" effort as a way of expressing gratitude for their support.
Kids select a charity to support, then donate spare change and participate in lunch-time fund-raisers.
Millikan students last year raised $1,800, which they donated to Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a breast-cancer charity.
Through similar events this year, Estrada hopes to bring in $2,000 for St. Jude's, a Memphis-based research hospital that specializes in pediatric cancer.
Millikan's costume-design class - the only one of its kind in Los Angeles Unified - is also working on 25 colorful cotton quilts that will be donated to the nonprofit CareQuilts, for distribution to youngsters battling cancer at Children's Hospital.
"It feels good to be doing this for a good cause," said Reut Rosenzweig, an eighth-grader from Chatsworth, whose first name is Hebrew for "friendship."
"This is a great experience to be working on something that will be donated to people," said Olivia Isa, 13, who learned quilting from her grandmother.
There's also an educational component to Estrada's campaign, and students will attend an assembly on Friday to learn about the benefits of a healthful diet and exercise and the importance of avoiding cigarettes and other health hazards.
Estrada also plans to speak about her own life, including her diagnosis with a hereditary form of invasive breast cancer when she was 30 and single.
She plans to talk about what she calls "the reality of the disease," including the chemo that robbed her of her hair - she still wears a wig - and her ability to bear children.
There are also the bright spots, including her marriage to Eddy Estrada, whom she met online - their nuptials were featured on the WEtv series "My Fair Wedding" - and the birth via surrogate of twin boys Edison and Hudson, who are now 8 months old.
"Hope is alive and well," said Estrada, whose cancer is in remission. "There is always good to come out of every single thing."