BLOOMFIELD, NJ — Pizza was on the menu last Friday afternoon for the Fairview Elementary School children whose homeroom collected the most loose change in a recent drive to raise funds to support families struggling with the expense of cancer treatments for a child.
The collection, which took place throughout February, was the idea of a Fairview mother, Milly Williams. Williams has a daughter at the school, a second-grader named Jordan, who had been diagnosed with leukemia in February 2015 while she was a first-grader at Carteret Elementary. The diagnosis came three days before the girl’s 7th birthday. It was these two events, the girl’s diagnosis and her birthday, which were the reasons why February was the month selected by her mother for the collection.
The winning classroom at Fairview was Jordan’s own homeroom, which collected $201.77 of the $1,438.49 the school collected in total.
It was Milly’s hope that the money collected by Fairview students would provide some financial support for families of children with cancer. Her wish came from hard experience.
She and her husband, Robert, both had to leave work to care for their daughter, during which time they received financial assistance from the Emmanuel Cancer Foundation. The funds collected at Fairview will go to Fighting Children’s Cancer Foundation, which also supports families experiencing pediatric cancer. For the Fairview effort, the FCCF provided the classrooms piggy banks and a pizza party for the homeroom that collected the most money. Williams said she would like a similar collection to occur throughout the district at all elementary schools.
The day Jordan was diagnosed, she was immediately hospitalized for three weeks, undergoing chemotherapy for lymphoblastic leukemia. She received her treatments at Goryeb Children’s Hospital, located at Morristown Medical Center.
She remained home until this past January. While at home, she kept up with her school work via a robot, donated by the Valerie Fund, in Maplewood. The robot was
stationed in the girl’s classroom. It had a camera and microphone which allowed Jordan to follow classroom activities. According Jordan’s second-grade teacher, Abby DeNicolas, when the girl was ready for classwork via the robot, she would sign-on from home using a computer.
The computer was attached to the robot, which Jordan named Chloe, and the robot would flash a light. This alerted DeNicolas that her student was ready to participate.
“The robot was located near the poster Jordan made,” DeNicolas said during the pizza party. “She was part of the class but the children didn’t know her.”
DeNicolas said her students were intrigued by their mechanical guest. She gave them a brief introduction to Chloe and their mysterious classmate communicating through it.
“I had to be careful,” DeNicolas said. “I let the children know Jordan was sick but that she would be fine and she was working very hard to be part of their class.”
DeNicolas said Jordan and her classmates got to meet with each other through a live camera and microphone feed between Chloe and the computer in Jordan’s home. Because of the viewing capability of the camera lens of the robot, students would huddle in groups of five to visit with Jordan.
The hospital also sent personnel to give students a more comprehensive overview of Jordan’s condition, DeNicolas said. The children were told that they need not be worried: They were not going to catch anything from Jordan. It was at this time that Jordan came to Fairview and briefly visited her classmates.
The children were also told that they had to be careful for Jordan if they were not feeling well because her immune system had been weakened. And DeNicolas said her students ordinarily wipe their desktops to maintain the overall hygiene of the classroom.
Jordan was also home-schooled by DeNicolas. This occurred four times a week.
“She handled it pretty well,” DeNicolas said. “She’s caught up with the class. She’s an awesome kid. It’s a pleasure having her in the classroom. We’ve learned so much from her.