Liams bad stuff equals good stuff
- Geoff Pursinger
- Sherwood Gazette - Features
Liam Jaussi is the most popular kid at Edy Ridge Elementary. After all, how many other kindergarteners have their face on posters and fliers all around the school, are the namesake of a fundraiser for Doernbecher Children's Hospital and have T-shirts with their names on them?
But the reason for Liam's popularity is a somber one. In June the energetic 6-year-old was diagnosed with what he refers to as 'the bad stuff' - a rapidly growing type of brain cancer called Anaplastic Ependymoma.
After being treated at Doernbecher Children's Hospital, Liam, who attends Edy Ridge Elementary School in Sherwood, has become the face of a special campaign to raise funds for brain cancer research.
'My head hurt,' Liam said, lying on his couch with his parents Paul and Laura. 'My head hurt a lot.'
Liam was diagnosed with 'the bad stuff' last June, when doctors found a lemon-sized tumor taking up about a quarter of his brain.
Doernbecher Children's Hospital in Portland treated Liam, who today is cancer free, and asked him to be the focus of their annual black tie dinner, The Heart of Doernbecher Auction.
'He kept asking what it was,' Paul said while Liam races off to play computer games with his 5-year-old sister Eliza. 'I told him that people were raising money to help kids like him. He thought for a minute and then disappeared upstairs.'
Liam came back with his piggy bank, and said he wanted to donate $6 to the auction to help children with brain cancer.
'I want to give $6 because I'm 6 years old,' he said.
Liam and his family attended the auction and when Liam presented his $6, Laura said the room went silent.
'There wasn't a dry eye in the house,' she said.
Doernbecher soon started a special fundraiser it named 'Liam's $6 Club' asking people to donate in increments of six.
'Liam's story is so compelling,' said Carolanne Wipfli, assistant director of development for the Doernbecher Foundation. 'So many people were really moved by Liam's gesture and it connected with families. Liam's story was a perfect fit - $6 is something anyone can support. Even Liam can give $6, you don't have to donate a lot of money.'
Edy Ridge donates
To date, Liam's club has raised more than $16,000 for pediatric neurosurgery research, and the majority of that money came from families in his hometown of Sherwood.
'Once we found out that Liam had cancer we knew that we had to do something,' said Lindsay Walker, a third-grade teacher at Edy Ridge.
The school held a special assembly telling the students about Liam's club and asked them to bring in nickels and dimes to donate.
The school placed donation jars in every classroom and set a goal to raise $3,600.
'By the end of the first day I knew we would beat that goal,' Walker said. 'We raised $600 on the first day, and we doubled that the next day, and the next.'
Students brought in pennies and dimes, and many students held bake sales, recycled soft drink cans and sold jewelry to help raise money.
'It was huge,' Walker said. 'Every day the kids were talking about it. Liam's like the most popular kid in school right now. I think this is something that the kids will really remember.'
As of Tuesday, the students had raised $10,644 of the club's $16,000 total, and although the school's fundraiser ended last week Walker said money is still flowing in for Liam's club.
'When you see $50 in pennies or $100 in quarters you realize that a little bit goes a long way,' said Laura, Liam's mother.
Laura said she was grateful for and awe-struck by what the students were able to accomplish.
'This really isn't a story about Liam, he was just the catalyst,' said Paul, Liam's father. 'It's a story of a community. Liam's just one member, but it's brought us to tears what these people have done.'
Edy Ridge Principal Frank Luzaich said that he will always remember what Edy Ridge - which opened its doors for the first time last year - was able to accomplish.
'When we think about the first year at Edy we were just getting through it and establishing a school,' he said. 'But I think when we think about the second year at Edy we'll say that was Liam's year - rallying around the family and getting everybody to support Doernbecher.'