My 10 year old twins have been attending Seaford Elementary since Kindergarten and for years now they have seen their class mate "Jedi Wes" come and go due to his 4 time battle with Neuroblastoma. He comes to school whenever he feels well enough and even on days when he's not quite well enough...he just wants to be with his friends. He just wants to be "normal". His cancer has stolen so much of his "normal". His mom, Krista, said to me "He gets invited to so many birthday parties and can never go because he is either in NYC for treatment or he is feeling too sick to go". That just didn't sit well with me. I thought and thought of what i could do, what could anyone do to make him smile, make him feel included for even just one day......
Then, Stephani Martin and I, along with the help of the generosity of the talented Sara Harris of Sara Harris Photography, put our plan into motion....
I went to the school Principal, Christina Head, and when i asked permission to purchase and screen print 550 shirts (one for each student and staff member) with a Stormtrooper on it that said "Be Brave Be Strong Be Wes". She said "yes!" with tears of joy in her eyes!!! I then reached out to Krista, Wes' mom, and let her in on our surprise. My next big idea was to have a photograph taken of the entire student body wearing the "Wes shirts" and have them all stand in formation spelling out "WES".
THIS WAS GETTING EXCITING!!!! We chose a date, the teachers gave me all of the students shirt sizes, i ordered the shirts and I quickly began printing!
The big day had finally arrived and we were so fortunate that the rain that had been forecast had held off for us!!! The students donned their "Wes shirts" by 9:30am and Wes had been taken to the guidance office to wait for his Mom. He was told she was coming to get him for an appointment :) Meanwhile, the students began dismissing by grade levels beginning with the kindergarteners. They were making their way to the basketball courts to the pre-marked "Wes" area. It honestly could not have gone any smoother. The students were so well behaved and so excited to surprise their classmate and friend, Wes.
Back inside the school Wes was waiting patiently for Mom but he wasn't sure what to think when she, myself, Stephani & Mrs. Head came to get him. His mom was wearing the "Wes shirt" and he was looking at it smiling ear to ear. She said "Would you like one of these?" He said "YES!". He quickly put his on over his shirt and Mrs. Head said "Wes, we have a surprise for you from the whole school...would you like to come with us and see it?" And, without hesitation, he was ready to go!!!
We all walked outside to the basketball court and what happened next was probably one of the most special moments i have ever experienced. Every student in the school cheered for Wes as soon as he came around the corner and not a single teacher or adult had a dry eye. And the smile on Wes' face, well, he was absolutely beaming and it was all for him. For that one day, he knew that his school supported him, that they remember him even though he had missed 76 days this year. And for that one day, he knew that he had 550 friends... and that was one party that he did NOT miss!
Photos credits: Sara Harris of Sara Harris Photography