A Class Act!
Windy Ridge School students offer hope, one bracelet at a time
by Dayna DeHaven
When 2013-14 fourth-grader Mia Patterson heard the devastating news about Windy Ridge School teacher Amy Selikoff’s Stage 3 breast cancer, her first thought was one of action.
“I’m going to make bracelets, and I’m going to sell them, and all the money is going to Mrs. Selikoff,” Mia’s father, Jeff, recalled about his daughter’s response to the news.
He and his wife, Katia, supported Mia’s resolve by offering to purchase some supplies, and Mia recruited a handful of friends to help. Within a matter of days, the Hope Loomers group was born.
The group included WRS students Jackie and Jessica Crook, Madison Crowley, Leah Mayo, Ederlyz Rodriguez, Gabby Teran, Sydney Wald and Maya Weber.
“Mia has an exuberant personality,” Jeff said. “It bubbles over. She [was] very pure to the cause and humble at the same time.”
With the support of parents, school administrators and teachers, Mia and her peers began selling bracelets at school during the Morning Mile — a run/walk program to keep kids healthy and active — and crafted the jewelry during all available moments.
“No one knows exactly what stirs a child to want to make a difference in someone else’s life,” Katia said. “I cannot count the hours or days Mia spent making bracelets instead of relaxing and enjoying her downtime. It was scheduled into every day. She did it with great determination and enthusiasm. And the others showed the same degree of zeal and positivism.”
The Hope Loomers decided it would set an initial goal of $300 to help offset the seventh-grade civic teacher’s medical expenses.
“The children [sold] water and bracelets at the Morning Mile, where students who [arrived] early to school [could] walk the track,” explained WRS Principal Sheilla Smith Johnson. “They also developed a marketing group where they went around to different classrooms, informing other students of their fundraising efforts.”
The school rallied. Children and adults alike purchased bracelets. Although special designs were created that were priced a bit higher, most bracelets went for $1 each. “Buy a Bracelet, Make a Difference” became the Hope Loomers’ motto, a sentiment that was echoed in the Windy Ridge School halls, both in word and in action.
“It may have been the leadership, hope, determination and dedication of a few who got the ball rolling, but the whole village stepped up to the plate and mirrored it right back at them,” Katia said.
“Everybody who [donated] a dollar [was] helping,” Mia said. “I felt really proud, and [I thank] all of my friends [who] helped me.”
The effort proved successful, with the group passing its initial $300 goal in just a few days. Incidentally, the school’s nurse, Katrina Ruiz — Nurse Kat, to the students — was diagnosed with Lyme disease around the same time. The group decided the next $300 it raised would go to her.
In only three weeks, the Hope Loomers raised a grand total of $1,045 to donate to their teacher and nurse. Checks were presented to both women by students on campus.
“[This] group of elementary school girls galvanized the hearts of an entire student body, K-8, and raised $1,045 in three weeks of bracelet sales — and two months of looming — one bracelet at a time,” Katia said. “And … a group of five second-graders and their teacher raised another $2,000 selling snacks and water, 50 cents at a time.”
Mrs. Selikoff sent an email to the Hope Loomers saying that the altruism and passion from the group have made a “phenomenal difference in her life” and the way she is dealing with her diagnosis. Mrs. Selikoff, who is currently going through chemotherapy, finished out the school year because of how proud she is of her students.
“Nurse Kat and Mrs. Selikoff have been such good models for students,” Principal Johnson said. “Life can be going along fine, and then something comes and kicks you in the teeth. You confront it head on, go as long as you can, keep coming in, because you have a mission in life. It’s a good lesson and model for the children. [They] appreciate the money, but more so the support, knowing the students have affection for them.”
Other WRS students showed their support of the two women by co-organizing a large event to raise money for their medical bills: the Legacy 5K run, which raised $2,000.
“The [2013-14] eighth-grade Hope class, with the help of [its] teacher, chose to develop a 5K from start to finish to raise funds,” Principal Johnson said. “The students contacted Bill Frederick Park on Hiawassee, got approval to use the park, did all the advertising and T-shirt designs, and collected money. They created maps and signs for the 5K and handed out water to the participants.”
Many parents and teachers believe WRS’s dedicated program for ESE children, which teaches every child who attends the school to embrace others with special needs and challenges, played its own part in these altruistic efforts.
“The net result is a school full of children learning early in their lives to have both compassion and empathy for others who are faced with challenges,” Katia said. “So when two faculty members became gravely ill, facing daunting challenges of their own, it didn’t come as a surprise to me that even children who may have had no contact with them would take up this cause all the same.”
Straight-A student Mia offers advice to those who want to tackle a big project like the Hope Loomers did.
“I suggest they [don’t] do it all by themselves because you need a lot of help,” she said.