I remember vividly. The date was September 6th 2012. It was supposed to be Zoey’s first day of kindergarten at her “big girl” school a.k.a Town Center Elementary. She was excited about going on that school bus for the very first time. Her dad and I were going to follow the bus and reach the school to make sure our sweet princess was doing fine. However that never happened. Instead of enjoying her first day of school like the rest of her friends, she was taken to Robert-Wood Johnson (hospital ) to meet with her pediatric oncologist and their awesome staff. She was taken to be measured for her radiation mask. Yes, thanks to DIPG, that’s how she spent her first day of kindergarten.
After her diagnosis we kept her at home , for a couple of reasons. One, we wanted as much time as we could get with her. And two, we weren’t sure how she would respond to radiation. So it was safer for her to be at home. We told her she was so smart and intelligent, that she needn’t go to kindergarten, but would go to first-grade directly. That’s another lie I told her (though at the time I truly believed she would be fine in a few months. So technically it wasn’t a lie.) At the time she seemed happy about it. She got pampered at home with her grandparents and us, meeting her every demand 🙂 my princess….She ruled our hearts.
Our school district was awesome and they offered to send a home-instruction teacher to work with her, a few days week. I am so grateful that Miss Julia ( the home instruction teacher ) came over, played with her and gave Zoey some semblance of normalcy in the midst of all that chaos.
Sometime in October, Zoey decided she wanted to visit her school. She had completed a few weeks of radiation and it seemed to have a positive effect on her health(another miracle I guess, since the tumor was growing through radiation). So I took her to her kindergarten classroom. Zoey met her kindergarten friends for the very first time. She spent some time reading a book on her teacher’s (Ms Cloer) lap. I remember clearly she even asked for some homework to take back home :):). She promised me that she would return to the school as soon as she got rid of that boo-boo. Unfortunately we never got to see that day. That was her first, last and only day in kindergarten. However I am thankful to Ms Cloer for giving me this memory to cherish for the rest of my life.
So fast forward to September 2013. Soon after Zoey’s passing the school counselor, Ms Trottmam, reached out to us offering condolence and support. I connected with her and we discussed Zoey, DIPG and the lack of awareness and funding for this dreaded disease.
The school staff and PTA were completely on-board and wanted to do something to raise awareness for DIPG, in Zoey’s honor. We decided to do a coin-drive fundraiser in February this year. The response to the coin-drive was just overwhelming and completely exceeded all our expectations. The children ( mostly aged between 4 and 10) , their parents, families and staff, all worked together and raised nearly 3000 dollars in Zoey’s honor. The funds raised will benefit DIPG research at the Lucile-Packard foundation of children’s health at Stanford. The love, compassion and humanity shown by this small community for a little girl, whom they never met or heard of before, has blown me away. I am truly humbled and feel blessed to live in such a giving community.
I am sure my baby girl is smiling down and is feeling so proud of her “big girl” school.
A huge heart-felt hug and THANK YOU to everyone at Town Center Elementary. You are awesome and we love you.
(Zoey’s mom forever)
Bags and bags of coins collected by the kids at Town Center Elementary: