UNSUNG HERO: Crab Orchard school district rally's behind Amirah - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

UNSUNG HERO: Crab Orchard school district rally's behind Amirah Jones

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CRAB ORCHARD -- In this week's Unsung Hero, the community of Crab Orchard is rallying support for a second-grader who recently underwent brain surgery.

Amirah Jones has not been back to school since February and now the entire pre-k through 12-grade school district is lending a hand of hope to her and her family.

There's an empty chair where Crab Orchard second grader Amirah Jones used to sit.    
"I saw her desk and just burst into tears," said her teacher Lori Howell.  

Lori said Amirah hasn't been back to school since undergoing brain surgery and a spinal tap. 

"She's the toughest little girl. I know she's going to get through this."  

Lori recalled it all started in February when Amirah would complain of headaches.

"One second Amirah would be fine, of course understandably now, and then the next second holding her head, so we never knew what was really going on," said Lori.  

After tests, doctors diagnosed Amirah with Medulloblastoma Stage 4. According to the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital website, Medulloblastoma is a cancerous tumor that starts in the brain then spreads to the spinal cord. The news hit Lori and her students hard.

"They wanted answers. They wanted to know when she'd be back. Would she be okay?"   

As a way to help the family with medical expenses, the school began a fundraiser called "Hands of Hope".

"I think their idea with it was kind of like, just giving her a big hug with those hands completely around the school," said Principal Sy Stone.  
    
For one dollar students or staff can buy a cutout paper hand and write their name on it before it's taped to the hallway walls. Principal Sy said they didn't set a goal amount or even a stop date. He said seeing so many hands makes him very proud of his students.

"When you put out something like this and they respond like they have, it really makes you feel like that you've done something. That you're pointing those kids in the right direction," said Principal Sy.  

Even though it's been hard for Amirah's classmates, Lori believes seeing the colorful little hands brings them comfort.

"They said, that's so cheerful walking down the hall today to the library," added Lori.  

Principal Sy said many in the community have also donated money. Since starting, the school has raised around $3,100. 

Amirah's spinal tap was March 12. She will now have to undergo six weeks of radiation.

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