Walkertown Middle School science teacher Edward Stickney said he didn’t know what to say when a group of his sixth graders presented him with nearly $400 cash to help pay the medical expenses his 19-year-old nephew has incurred while battling a rare form of cancer known as Rhabdomyosarcoma. He said knowing that his students went out of their way to help a complete stranger was more than he could handle.
“As a teacher, you want to instill in your students the value of helping others during their time of need, and when you get to see that take place, it’s very rewarding,” Stickney said. “To know they took it upon themselves to help a complete stranger is amazing.”
Stickney said the only clue he had at all about what Grant Norman, Lydia Stroud, Heather Fulp, Blake Stockton, Austin Amos and Ryan Jones were up to was a quick conversation he had with them a few weeks ago. Stickney shared with the class what his family was going through after receiving word that the news was not good. He said Stroud and Norman asked him that same day if there was anything they could do to help, and all Stickney said was to keep his nephew in their thoughts and prayers.
Stickney said he figured that would be the end of that conversation. But he was wrong.
“I walked into my office the other morning (January 22) to find a group of parents and students standing there,” Stickney said. “I figured I was in trouble. Instead, they handed me a jar full of money. I was completely dumbfounded.”
“What these kids don’t realize is that this money will benefit more than just my nephew,” Stickney added. “My family has decided to use that as seed money for an ongoing fund to benefit others who suffer from the same disease.”
Stickney said the money will be used for research at St Jude Children’s Research Hospital in honor of James Kellar, who dreamed of one day becoming a doctor. Stickney said it is rare for someone Kellar’s age to be diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma since it typically starts in the sinuses of infants, but it is a reality that his family has come to grips with.
Stickney said they choose to focus on the positive.
“Anytime I talk with (the family), their response is, ‘How about them children,’” Stickney said. “They, too, are surprised these students spent their day out of school helping someone they’ve never even seen a picture of.”
Norman said the idea of collecting donations in front of the hardware store came about after a dream he had. He said the group of friends knew they didn’t have much time to put something together, so they decided to make bracelets and pass out lemonade to everyone who gave them a donation. Norman said it was rewarding to see the response of the Walkertown community over the course of just a few hours.
“We had a few people stop and ask what we were doing and why it was called ‘His Wish,’” said Amos, who enjoyed raising money for a good cause. “We even had one guy clean out all of the change from his truck to help us out. It was close to $20.”
Stroud said another lady made a donation and then asked them to let her know how much they raised after the fact. Stroud said it made her proud to know that others were taking an interest in helping their teacher.
“To know we made a difference is very rewarding,” said Fulp, who helped make many of the bracelets. “I don’t think any of us thought we would make as much money as we did, but I am glad we did.”
Stockton and Jones said this project was extra special because it was something they came up with as a group. Stockton said they discussed it in homeroom and gym class and had already decided they wanted to help before talking to their parents.
Stockton said they spent three days making the bracelets, painting posters and developing their plan of action. They then spent about two and a half hours outside Webster Brothers Hardware during the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday taking donations.
“We raised about $266 during that short time. I think we all felt very proud,” Norman said.
“I think we learned that if you are willing to put in the work, you can achieve your goal,” he said. “It was a very rewarding project, and I am glad I was able to be part of it.”