Second-graders rally around classmate with cancer, design bracelets as fundraiser

MERCER ISLAND, Wash. -- Lessons at Lakeridge Elementary School on Mercer Island sometimes come from storybooks, or sometimes a student's story is the lesson.

Students wear orange bracelets during story time that were created as a fundraiser for their classmate, Ewan Lill, who is battling acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

"Orange is the color that represents leukemia," said Oscar Hokanson, a third-grader and vice president of the K-Kids Club at Lakeridge, an elementary component for the international Kiwanis organization providing kids with opportunities to engage in leadership and community service.

"I like that they're thinking of me," said Lill.

The soft-spoken 7-year-old who loves Legos, superheros and sports was diagnosed with leukemia last summer.

His chemotherapy treatments mean he's out of class a lot.

"The class isn't usual without him. Sometimes we Skype him," said second-grade classmate Piper Auld.

His absence felt by peers inspired leaders of K-Kids to make this year's community service project to raise money for cancer research.

"I like that they're caring about trying to cure me," said Lill.

Banding together, the students designed bracelets.

"On them they have 'k-kids cures cancer,'" said Hokanson.

Selling more than 1,100 in two weeks, the students raised more than $5,000.

Their teacher, Barbara Tivnan who is also the K-Kids faculty adviser, and an educator for 40 years who is retiring in June, says the empathy the kids have shown is not something that's taught.

"My cup runneth over, this is how I want children to be raised, to be compassionate and caring about someone or something that they’ll fight for, that’ll make a difference," said Tivnan.

Cancer, the tough teacher, handing out lessons to these little learners.

"I hope that the people in the hospital, like kids who suffer from leukemia, know that there’s other people out there that want to help them, and that they’re not just alone," said Tyler Lowe, a K-Kids member.

An orange bracelet and a few thousand dollars may not fund a cure, but it's the ripple effect from classroom story time, that one good deed will lead to others, coming to life off the pages of storybooks in a very real way.

The school can't accept donations and the bracelets are sold out. If you'd like to donate to pediatric cancer research, they advise doing so directly to Seattle Children's Hospital.