A heart-warming tale of charity and goodwill has recently emerged from the profusion of “big, bad front page stories” an ongoing BCTF labour dispute has spawned, says SD71 teacher Myra Wilson.
When workplace negotiations prompted B.C. school districts to withdraw from extracurricular activities, Wilson and her Grade 5/6 class at Aspen Park Elementary were forced to abandon plans for a multi-day trip to Victoria’s legislature buildings.
What her students have done with the money reserved for the cancelled outing has left Wilson awestruck.
“My co-workers and I were all so nervous about telling our students that trips had been cancelled,” admits Wilson, “but it’s turned into so many other great things.”
Once the cancellation was announced, a portion of the money students had raised towards the excursion was reserved for a day trip to Parksville; the fate of the remaining $500 — accrued through the sale of fun-shaped pasta, coffee and lollipops — was decided by class vote.
After talk of donating the remaining funds to a local charity, Wilson says her class proposed Children’s Hospital “all on their own.”
“Somebody shouted out Children’s Hospital,” says student Jade Potts, “and then we all agreed to it because all of our class knows that Ms. Wilson’s daughter goes to Children’s Hospital.”
Wilson, her husband, and their daughter Lauren have been in and out of Children’s Hospital since October when the three-year-old was diagnosed with juvenile idiopathic arthritis.
The condition, which affects one in 1,000 children under the age of 16, causes persistent join pain, stiffness and swelling. Wilson says the resultant limp Lauren developed “slowly got worse” until she could hardly walk.
“We stopped going to the park because it just too depressing for her, being unable to climb and play.”
But Wilson insists her family has been lucky — “the medical community here is so great.”
A speedy diagnosis, ongoing local support, and specialist care at B.C. Children’s Hospital have led Lauren into complete remission.
“She couldn’t walk, she couldn’t run, she couldn’t jump,” says Aspen Park student Abby Buckley. “But now because of B.C. Children’s Hospital she can do all that stuff.”
The class’s decision to support the charity came just days before B.C. Children’s Hospital’s annual Miracle Weekend. During the 11-hour telethon, Overwaitea pledged to double the funds her class had donated.
“I was so touched,” says Wilson of her students’ generosity. “To know 11-and 12-year-olds are thinking that way is really inspiring. It’s been hard for teachers to have to cancel these trips, but we’re pleased to see such positive alternative activities planned.”
The class’s compassion has been contagious; another Aspen Park class is already proposing a donation to the Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society (MARS) in Courtenay.