LAWRENCE — A sea of purple invaded the Emily G. Wetherbee School on Friday, all in support of Andritti “Andy” Measamom.
Andy, 11, has been battling cancer since age 6. The illness went into remission for several years, but it came back this fall when doctors discovered that the boy with jet black hair and an infectious smile had four tumors on his brain and spine.
In addition to his family, Andy has found a lot of support from teachers and classmates at the Emily G. Wetherbee School, where he is a fourth grader.
The Helping Hands Charity Club and Andy’s teacher Cherilyn Donaghey organized Andy’s Day on Friday.
Instead of wearing uniforms, students paid $1 to wear purple shirts, pants, scarves, headbands and jerseys in Andy’s favorite color. Students and staff members also purchased purple bracelets for $1, while others donated $5, $10 and $20.
Friday morning, the line was out the door as students and their parents waited to buy bracelets. Students sold 150 purple bands, which ran out by mid-day. Members of the Enterprise Club at Wetherbee will make more to sell.
“It brought me to tears. It was really heart-warming because most people don’t even know who he is. It was a very special and unifying day for our school,” Donaghey said.
The school was able to raise $761, and will give Andy’s family gas cards for their many trips to Boston Children’s Hospital. Students will also make a fun basket for Andy including books and other items that he can use when he’s home from the hospital. The rest will be donated to St. Jude Hospital for Children.
“We want to make him feel happy and know he’s not alone. He is battling this illness and we want him to know that we’re battling with him too,” said Kelley Cuevas.
Cuevas, along with Vallery Gomez, Chau Ngyen and twin sisters Jocelyn and Emely Sanchez are members of the Helping Hands Charity club which raises money for different causes at the Wetherbee and in the community.
“This is not just for the money. It’s to show him that we care for each other,” Chau said.
Andy was sick over Christmas and his classmates wrote Christmas cards which were sent along with cupcakes.
When Danny returned to school, he flagged down Donaghey as he yelled, “I’m here.”
“It makes you realize how important life is. You have to make the most of it and can’t let stuff in life get you down,” Donaghey said.
Colleen Lennon, principal at the Wetherbee School feels fortunate to work in a school where students and staff members rally for a student in need.
“It’s really uplifting to see how this was sparked by students to help one of their own. This is one big facility which is truly family and community oriented,” Lennon said.
Danny was born in Lawrence to Cambodian immigrants, Mom Hun and Yong Kim. He has an older brother and sister. Danny was diagnosed with cancer when he was 6, his father Mom Hun said.
“It was very hard for us because I know cancer is very tough to cure,” Hun said.
Hun said his son enjoys playing games and reading.
“What keeps me strong is keeping him happy every day by giving whatever he wants. That’s all I can do because I can’t stop the disease, but I have faith in God,” Hun said.
Donaghey admitted not knowing how to approach the subject to her fourth grade class.
“I didn’t know how to handle it, but Andy deals with it so well and the other kids are so protecting of him, walking with him when he’s tired.”
Donaghey bought “I’m a Kid Living with Cancer” a book by Jenevieve Fisher and uses it to teach students about the illness and procedures victims go through while battling the disease.
“I wanted to find something that didn’t make people sad,” she said. “I wanted to have Andy be able to express his feelings and feel in charge.”
The book has also empowered Andy. Sitting on his wheelchair in front of the class he reads from the book and explains to classmates about the medical procedures.
“He is able to express himself and it makes him feel in charge,” Donaghey said. “He’s very bright, strong and has a very positive attitude. I hope we’ll be able to have the same strength if we’re ever in a situation like that.”
Imanol Ramos, 10, one of 25 students in Andy’s class was saddened when he found out Andy had cancer.
“I’m sad because he’s my best friend and we play a lot together. I like being with him,” Imanol said.
Donaghey said Danny never complains about his numerous visits to the hospital, MRI or radiation.
“I’m really amazed by him. I think we all are,” she said.