INDEPENDENCE, Missouri - Look. Loud. Lemon. Lips. Leash.
Speech therapy is a normal part of the school day for Kristina Thompson. She's a fourth grader at William Southern Elementary in Independence. She has a rare genetic disorder called Ataxia Telangiectasia. Among other things, it means she has to use a wheelchair.
She's only had her new wheels for a month. Insurance is paying part of the $18,000 cost. Her friends are trying to cover the rest.
"It wasn't even a question,” said Jami Guinnee, her teacher. “We all just came together at our leadership team and said this is something we are going to do."
This has been Kristina’s week. Kids have worn hats for a penny and blown bubbles for a nickel. For a quarter, Thursday is pink day for the girls and sports days for the boys, and Friday is pajama and movie day for a dollar.
Her mom, Jennifer Thompson, was overwhelmed by the offer to help, but not surprised.
"I've always said Kristina has more than one mom, and she does,” Thompson said. “She's got a ton of moms, especially here at school."
There's no cure for Kristina's condition, which affects her muscular and immune systems. She could walk in the second grade but needed a walker last year. Now, she's getting used to the wheelchair.
Counting the money is a math lesson for the class, but there’s more in it for the other students than plain old academics. Even pre-schoolers at William Southern are pitching in. Guinnee said it’s a life-long lesson that some of the kids may never have had a chance to do before, and now they're taking pride and owning it.
“We have kids coming in that have brought their piggy banks and said, 'Oh, I was saving for a bike but I want to give it to Kristina.',” Guinnee said.
Through Wednesday, they'd collected more than $1,200 dollars.
"We said, 'Kristina, what are you thinking?' She said, 'Wow, I'm really loved.'," Guinnee said.
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