An impromptu all-school assembly was held at Hickory Creek Middle School the Wednesday before Christmas break.
Cole Cunningham didn’t know it at the time, but the assembly was called to surprise him with the announcement that his classmates had raised enough money to fulfill his Make-A-Wish Foundation dream of visiting Hawaii.
A 12-year-old seventh grade student at Hickory Creek, Cole was diagnosed with a brain tumor in December of 2011 and has since undergone multiple rounds of chemotherapy.
As the assembly began, Principal Kevin Suchinski called Cole’s name. Cole walked to the gym’s center court, where he was presented with a package. Inside the package was a letter that said, “Cole, your Make-A-Wish dream has come true. We love you.”
The entire school cheered Cole’s name. Then, Principal Suchinski and Assistant Principal Sean Rhoads shaved their heads to show their support.
“It’s unexplainable,” said Cole. “Just knowing that they’re all there for me is great.”
Cole’s surprise assembly was the culmination of months of fundraising efforts from students at Hickory Creek. The student body joined up with the 157-C Family School Partnership to raise money by hosting a back-to-school dance, facilitating a dine-to-donate partnership with Aurelio’s and organizing a pie sale through Market Days, along with several other efforts.
With the help of a monetary donation, Hickory Creek students were able to reach their goal of $5,000 for Cole’s dream vacation.
“It strengthens the bond and the family that we have here,” said Suchinski, who explained that fundraising for organizations such as Make-A-Wish teaches values like citizenship and caring.
However, the money is only the most recent of many gestures on the part of Cole’s classmates meant to demonstrate their support for him as he works toward recovery.
When he was out of school and in treatment during the last year, fellow students would send cards and videos home. Once, his class even recorded a video of the entire group singing a revised version of the Chicago Bears fight song, which was reworded to include Cole’s name. As a huge fan of all Chicago sports teams, this was particularly special to him.
Today, Cole is attending school again. He is still receiving chemotherapy and he recently completed a successful stem cell harvest. This means that in the future, Cole will be able to undergo a stem cell transplant, which is the final phase of treatment.
Cole and his family hope to embark on their Hawaiian vacation later this year.
“The school has been so amazing to us,” said Cole’s mother, Melissa. “We’re very lucky.”
This article includes information provided in a press release from Frankfort School District 157-C.
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