ADDISON – Being the new kid in school can be difficult. You need to learn a new school, make new friends, meet new teachers, and figure out where and how you fit in.
Trying to do this after losing a family member makes it even more difficult.
Thus began fourth year Emalynn Jay’s first year at Addison Elementary School. Just a few weeks into the school year, Jay’s younger brother Michael “Junior” died of cancer. He was only 2 years old.
Michael was in hospice care at the beginning of the school year. It was something Emalynn’s teachers and district were aware of.
Even though Emalynn was the new kid in the class, the Addison community quickly gathered around her like its own.
Emalynn and one of her sisters were back at school the day after their brother died. When Emalynn approached elementary school principal Angie Huston with a suggestion, she first discovered that Emalynn was “wise beyond her years.”
“Emalynn said to me, ‘I want to run a fundraiser for the hospital,'” Huston said.
Michael was cared for at ProMedica Russell J. Ebeid Children’s Hospital in Toledo.
“What I experienced was like no other,” said Emalynn.
The Addison student said she liked the way the hospital staff looked after her brother and other children, even though they didn’t know him.
Huston loved the idea.
“I said absolutely,” remarked the director. “I said absolutely we could do that.”
Emalynn’s teacher Samantha Barth was immediately impressed.
“I immediately thought it was a great idea, especially for a fourth grader who comes up with something of his own,” she said.
Huston and his coworkers put together a coin drive last fall. The whole school has also accepted it. Each grade from kindergarten through fifth grade brought in as many coins as possible.
The class that raised the most money would get an ice cream party, but Barth said her class was in to get her to join her classmate.
“It’s like the kids didn’t even take care of the ice cream party,” said Barth. “(One student said) ‘Emalynn is in our class and we have to do that.'”
Kelsey Gietek helped her fourth grade son raise money for his class. She put out a collector’s jar in her shop, Local Roots Massage and Wellness.
The coin drive was supposed to take two weeks but was canceled due to a COVID-19 shutdown. That didn’t stop the fundraiser from being a complete success. Addison Elementary raised more than $ 1,800. Huston said it was the most grown up in a coin-operated school.
Then it was time to donate. Huston let Emalynn and her sisters decide how to spend the money.
Due to the coronavirus, donating to a hospital is a bit difficult, so ProMedica has created a wish list.
The girls spent $ 1,300 checking items from the wish list. They spent an additional $ 250 on Target gift cards that go to families with children in the hospital. Emalynn also wanted to thank the hospital staff, so they spent the last $ 250 on food and drink in the staff lounge.
The donations were delivered during the Christmas break.
“The school was able to provide many sensory toys for distraction during procedures such as squishy balls, light spinners, pop-fidgets, and bubble timers,” said Sharon Pesci, a child life specialist, in a statement to Telephones even during the procedure. The school also donated snacks, treats, and drinks for the staff, which was greatly appreciated! “
Barth said Emalynn and the class received a thank you card from the nurses. The students in the class gave Emalynn a bracelet in memory of her brother.
“I was very proud of my class,” said Barth. “I was surprised it decreased like this.”
Addison’s national motto is “We lift ourselves up by lifting others up”. With Emalynn, Addison Elementary embodied it.
“This was something that she needed that could help in the healing process,” said Huston. “It was a great lesson for our students.”
The status of a new student disappears as soon as a student finds his group of friends and gets used to the community of a school.
Obviously, Emalynn wasn’t the new kid long.
“She was immediately greeted and part of our ward and district,” said Huston.