The student body of Chicopee Woods Elementary, which filled more than half of the school’s gym floor, was easily brought to attention by Principal Lindsey Chatham as she welcomed kindergartner Kevin Aceves and his family to the stage Monday.
The students cheered and applauded their visually impaired classmate as he received a check of $4,637 in donations.
“The beauty of it is how the community came together to help. We’ve had a really quick turnaround; all of this has been done in just a few weeks,” Chatham said.
Over the past couple of months, Kevin’s eyesight has worsened, and he recently found out he has tumors growing on his optic nerve.
“It’s called retinoblastoma; it’s cancer of the eye,” said Keely Zeitlin, teacher of the visually impaired. “He already lost his right eye, and had cataract surgery in November (of 2015) to widen his field of vision. Now it is possible he could lose his left eye.”
The previous surgery had been done in Georgia, and the family was able to stay at the Ronald McDonald House. This time, he is scheduled to fly to Philadelphia to receive surgery for the cancer, but not without some help from his school.
“We knew we had to do something,” Assistant Principal Kelley Trippe said. The teachers made shirts, organized a bake sale, set up a donation for Kevin at the Relay for Life event on Friday and started a GoFundMe campaign. The donations raised will help the family travel and care for Kevin’s three siblings.
The family accepted a travel bag courtesy of the teachers, a jar full of money and a tearful “see you later” from the faculty, staff and students. A video presentation played during the ceremony, displaying pictures of Kevin and his friends while the song chosen by the faculty, “Heroes (we could be)” by Alesso, played.
Zeitlin said that Kevin is very independent, already learning how to read Braille and count using Abacus. When a teacher asked if he was afraid, Kevin responded by saying, “No, I’m brave. I’ve got this.”