Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

November 10, 2012

Students make a house call

Entire school visits sick classmate at her home

Mike James
The Independent

FLATWOODS —  When the long line of children snaked down Vallance Street to Emily Clark’s house, the 11-year-old was ready to meet them.

Sitting on a cushion on the front steps, Emily looked up at her mother as more than 300 kids gathered and waved her way.

It was the entire student body of Russell-McDowell Intermediate School, and they had walked the four blocks to Emily’s house to let her know that even though she is sick and hasn’t been in school this year, they are thinking about her.

Emily has a form of brain cancer and since it was diagnosed two years ago has undergone two surgeries, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Her mobility has been impaired and she does not walk now. The most recent procedure was in September, said her mother, Johnda Clark. “She is still all smiles, though, bless her heart,” Clark said. “Regardless of the pain, she doesn’t complain, ever.”

Although her daughter has put on a brave and cheerful face, Clark and Emily’s former teachers know there is much she misses about being well and still able to go to school.

At an age when children depend on being able to see their friends, Emily has remained homebound. The solution, teachers decided, was for the school to go to her.

Early Friday afternoon, every student at Russell-McDowell assembled on the playground and then, escorted by two police cruisers, hiked down the street to Emily’s house. They presented her some balloons and a fleecy blanket in green and purple, colors that symbolize the fight against brain cancer.

Emily didn’t have much to say when the kids headed back to school, but the smile on her face below her white crocheted cap showed her pleasure.

The reaction is typical of a child who has many friends but is shy and quiet, said Danielle Mason, who was Emily’s teacher the year she received her diagnosis. Mason remembers the other girls in class made it their mission to keep tabs on Emily, who was subject to occasional seizures. “They would stay with her on the playground and help her,” Mason said.

The school and the entire Russell district has rallied around Emily and her family, who have had major expenses taking her to Children’s Hospital in Cincinnati for treatment. On Friday, teacher Bridget Thomas showed an envelope thick with $600 in cash that had been raised that day for the family.

Future fundraisers include Dec. 8, which has been designated Emily Clark night at the Russell High School varsity basketball game. Supporters will wear green and purple and will sell T-shirts and bracelets to raise money.

Johnda Clark hopes the attention to her daughter’s plight will raise awareness of children with cancer. It was something she knew little about until she saw it for herself while in hospitals with Emily. “We didn’t know it was such a huge problem with kids. I had no clue,” she said.

MIKEā€ˆJAMES can be reached at mjames@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2652.