By Tiffany Heath
(Vincennes, Indiana) South Knox Elementary school students came together to help one of their very own after raising over $5,000 in just 4 days.
Dusti Kinnett, PTO President lead the effort in raising money for Kennedy Alexander and her family.
“Bring the Change to be the Change” is the name of the penny drive that raised the money for Kennedy. “We sent a paper home that explained who she was, how old she was, what her condition is, that she was born with this. At 5 days old she had her first corrective surgery that brought the diaphragm over and the internal organs down,” said Kinnett.
“We told the kids that whatever classroom raised the most money would get a popcorn party. Each day they would announce who the top five classes were and it got a little competition going. Mrs. Cardinals 5th grade class is who raised the most money in the end,” said Kinnett. “She was born with CHD, Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia, and she is going to travel to Florida. So they have a lot of expenses to cover while they are down there, hotel, gas, food.”
Kennedy also has extreme scoliosis and has not gained any weight in over a year. From first grade and second grade she hasn’t grown or gained. The last doctors visit in Florida the doctor was disappointed in the lack of growth that should be taking place, Kinnett also mentioned.
Many would describe Kennedy as endearing, bubbly, energetic and the list goes on. “She has an awesome personality,” said Kinnett. “She keeps up with all the kids and doesn’t let it slow her down.
Kinnett also mentioned, “In first grade, instead of going out to her last recess, she would sit with me at recess and have a snack and I would grade papers. We’ve really become close.”
When Kinnett was asked about the family and if they know what was going on Kinnett had to laugh, “Kelly asked, ‘Why are we going to the gym? What’s going on?’ and Carla said, ‘Does she not know?’. I told her that I said we were going to do a little presentation?,” Kinnett said with a sneaky smile and a laugh.
“This morning we had one more big donation come in. So $5,580 is our final total. I thought that if we could get $500 that would be so awesome,” Kinnett said. This total was all collected in 4 days. This Penny Drive started Tuesday, May 6 until Friday, May 9. This is an amazing total to collect in just 4 days.
Each afternoon Kinnett walked around with a yellow basket to collect money from the classrooms. They went to German American bank to turn in the change and have it counted each night.
Kennedy is very well known throughout South Knox Elementary school. “We may be small, but we have a very big heart,” said Kinnett about SKE.
As all of the 674 students sat on the bleachers in the gym, along with teachers and other parents, the school principal Mr. Drew spoke to the entire congregation gathered for the presentation of an amazing gift. He started by saying, “We are gathered here this afternoon to give a gift. Last week all of you students, and a lot of staff members, other folks, your moms and dads, grandpas, grandmas, people of South Knox donated some money to help one of our own. That is Miss Kennedy Alexander.”
“Last week we collected money and we it brought it in. Today we are going to celebrate that collection by giving it to Miss Kennedy. The PTO lead this en devour for us and the PTO president, Mrs. Kinnett has been pushing her yellow basket around collecting that money, taking it off to the bank and made the deposit. She gave me the total now that we have.
It was a very emotional time for the Alexander’s when the received the check for $5,580.
As Kennedy was walking out of the gym and back to her class she said “I was so excited that I almost cried.”
“We are hoping that when she has the surgery next summer on her back that most everything should be falling into place,” said Jake Alexander, Kennedy’s father. Kennedy’s mom, Kelly added, “He thinks that once they do it that it’ll fix itself.”
Kennedy is such a fan of the movie “Frozen” that her teacher decorated her classroom and the bulletin board in the hall with a “Frozen” theme. They made it a very fun last day of school for Kennedy since this was the last day she would be in school for the year due to her up coming surgery.
“She is getting a feeding tube put in because at her yearly check up with her surgeon in Florida said her growth, obviously she’s little, itty bitty,” said Kelly. Most children grow parallel to the growth curve but that was not what was happening with Kennedy. “She was doing that, but then all of a sudden her curve flat lined and she didn’t gain any weight or height.” Kennedy started to get tired and not have much energy towards the end of the day after lunch and her doctor found that to be alarming and wanted to have something done as soon as possible.
The Alexander family will be making their way to Florida for Kennedy’s surgery that is scheduled for Monday, May 19. They are still unsure of the exact length of time they will have to be in Florida, but they are anticipating at least a week. “I think it is going to depend on how she does,” said Kelly.