In past years, sixth- graders at Branch Elementary School in Arroyo Grande have raised money to pay for items at the de Groot Nursing Home for Children, stocked the local food bank, and collected donations to build and fill a shed at the Prado Day Center for the homeless in San Luis Obispo with supplies for children in need.
This year, Cheryl Little’s class brainstormed and came up with a new idea for a community service project, something Little has done with her class for the past 15 or so years.
“So many kids in the class, including myself, have been touched by cancer and we decided it would be our theme this year,” she said.
Through the local chapter of the American Cancer Society, the class decided to help 5-year-old Clayton Roberts, an Orcutt boy who endured more than a year of radiation and chemotherapy treatments after doctors discovered a brain tumor in February 2010.
Since November, students have collected donations for Clayton by selling candygrams at Valentine’s Day, cookie dough and popcorn.
One student, whose parent owns Breakfast Buzz in San Luis Obispo, put a donation jar on the counter and collected money from customers and employees.
Today, the students will meet Clayton for the first time and present his family with a check for about $5,000 to use toward medical expenses that insurance didn’t cover and other costs stemming from his treatment at Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA and Cottage Children’s Hospital in Santa Barbara.
“We feel really happy and fortunate and thankful that we have him to share with everyone,” said Clayton’s mother, Robbyn Roberts.
Roberts, a registered nurse, and her husband, John, director of operations for the 30th Operations Support Squadron at Vandenberg Air Force Base, had just moved their family to the Central Coast from Alabama about six months before Clayton started having headaches, vomiting and feeling lethargic.
He was diagnosed with a medulloblastoma, a brain tumor that commonly occurs in the part of the brain that controls complex motor functions such as balance. Clayton underwent one surgery to remove it, and completed 30 radiation treatments and a round of chemotherapy in Los Angeles. Eleven more months of chemo followed in Santa Barbara.
He’s now tumor free, Robbyn Roberts said, and is back to the business of being a little boy. Clayton has three other siblings, including a 6-month-old, all of whom will likely meet Little’s sixth-grade class today.
The family is moving June 1 to Fort Bragg in North Carolina, where John Roberts will serve as the squadron commander of 18th Weather Squadron.Little said her students are thrilled to meet Clayton.
“They are so eager and enthusiastic about it,” she said. In turn, the students “learn to look out into the world and see things that are in need. It teaches responsibility and empathy and caring and all the things we want to instill in our children.”
Cynthia Lambert and Gayle Cuddy write the South County Beat column on alternating Wednesdays. Reach Cynthia Lambert at 781-7929. Stay updated by following @SouthCounty Beat on Twitter.