After reading a story on GwdToday, a group of students at Springfield Elementary School decided that life was about more than reading a good story – it’s about making the good story.
When Ms. Shaffer pulled up the story about young Nehemiah, a 6-year-old boy with a rare condition known as Angelman Syndrome, she had no idea her students would be so moved. However, her group of special needs students, dubbed the A-Team by District 50 superintendent Dr. Darrell Johnson, immediately identified with Nehemiah. Shaffer, the ever-opportunistic teacher, turned the story into a teaching tool.
For the entire month of January, Shaffer’s students learned real-world applications of a number of different concepts, such as mathematics, cursive writing and using manners. The students distributed collection boxes to every classroom at the school and dutifully collected the donations daily. They then returned to the classroom to count all the money and track which class was in the lead.
As a special prize, the students offered up Piper, the service dog that stays in their classroom during the school day. The winning class would get Piper for an entire week. It was only fitting that these students gave up their service dog to help another child get his.
Shaffer’s class set out to raise $1,000 to help Nehemiah. The cost of the service dog was $8,000. The company training the dog received a $1,000 donation from an anonymous donor in Arizona and Nehemiah’s grandmother, Betsy Shields, who raises Nehemiah by herself, made a $500 down payment. Shields wasn’t sure how she would get the rest of the money since she is on fixed income. In stepped Shaffer and her lofty goal of $1,000, a significant gift for such a small group of students.
GwdToday visited the A-Team in January and the students were excited to be helping another child. They were especially excited about exceeding their goal just halfway through what they called “The Nehemiah Project.” No one expected what would happen by the end of the month.
On Friday afternoon, the A-Team held a Nehemiah Project Wrap-Up Party. After recapping the project for the visitors, the A-Team revealed that they had raised over $7,600 to help Nehemiah. Shaffer informed the group that the remaining balance on Zeus, Nehemiah’s service dog currently being trained in Arizona, was $5,931, a total that reflects other donations made directly to Service Dogs International by members of the Greenwood community.
Shaffer said that they would be sending a check for $6,931 to Service Dogs International, $5,931 to finish paying for Nehemiah’s dog and another $1,000 that will go toward a dog needed by another child in North Carolina.
“(The A-Team) made me realize what education is all about,” said Dr. Johnson through tears. “It’s not just about teaching and learning. It’s about caring and dedication. In 28 years in education, I have never seen anything like this.”
Shields did not expect there to be such an outpouring of support when she was first contacted by GwdToday.
“This is just amazing,” Shields said. “I didn’t expect that Ms. Shaffer would see the story when it was first written. I just don’t have the words to say other than, ‘Thank You.’ This will be such a blessing to Nehemiah.”
Shields said that Nehemiah’s dog would be ready sometime around his birthday, which is June 1.
“I am so proud of these boys,” said Dr. Johnson. “They truly are the A-Team.”
Editor’s Note: Readers are encouraged to read all three stories about Nehemiah and his relationship with the A-Team. Together, they describe one of the most special and encouraging group of children in the Lakelands area. There were not many dry eyes at the Wrap-Up Party, and rightfully so. What this group of children has done is nothing short of remarkable.