Two-year-old Landon Rogers walks with his dad, Bob Rogers at the family home last month. Landon is now back in Providence Children's Hospital in Anchorage.
Clarion file photo
When Redoubt Elementary fifth-grader Kristen Nagel opened her newspaper and read about Landon Rogers, 2, a little boy suffering from severe failure to thrive who has spent most of his life in a hospital and might never live to be 3, she wanted to find a way to help him.
"He looked so tiny and cute. I was sad that he was sick. I just wanted to help," Kristen said.
She decided to do a bake sale fund-raiser since she had experience helping with them at school. She took her plan to her teacher, John Mills, with the idea that she could enlist the help of her classmates.
"I wasn't sure what to do because I have never tried to do something like this before," Kristen said. "It had to be something I could handle."
Mills was all for the idea and encouraged Kristen to take on the project.
"She is a good student, and her enthusiasm and concern for someone else was contagious," Mills said. "I also agree with principal Todd Syverson that it is important to not get tied up only in test scores and day-to-day workings of school, that it is important to stop and teach these kids that they are a part of something bigger. A community."
Mills said there would be plenty of learning opportunities by taking part of the process and the rest of the class also was excited to help someone from their area.
With the bake sale plans in full swing Mills thought that would be it, but Kristen's idea took on a life of its own.
Mills said, as a class, they stayed with the bake sale, but others, encouraged by Kristen's leadership, began to do extra fund-raising on their own.
Lauren Steffy, 11, thought her grandma made great scarves and asked her to knit some to help Landon.
"My grandma can make about 10 really cool looking scarves a day. So she gave me some to sell to the kids and teachers at recess," Lauren said. "It was sad that he could die. We wanted to help him get money so he could go to the doctor."
Friends, Shannon Wyatt and Erika Hoyt decided to ask for help from Erika's Soldotna Lion's Club group.
"Erika's mom said she could help get us time to talk to them, but we had to write and practice the speech," Shannon said. "I never wrote a speech before. We had to do research from the story in the paper. I learned a lot."
"It made us so nervous, but we just thought about how much they could help Landon with their money," Erika said. "So we practiced, and asked them to give us some money and they did."
Both girls said it was worth the effort and are proud they could help Landon's family earn money to help him get better.
Kristen and her mom, Cindy, took the bake sale idea on the road and sold baked goods to her dad, Jake's, co-workers at Enstar.
"Everyone was very nice, they would give a lot more money than a cookie was worth," Kristen said. "Some of them even came down to the school the day of the bake sale and bought more."
Mills said with the organization and effort that the kids put into planning the bake sale that it was a huge success.
"Everyone in the class worked hard. They would eat in shifts and gave up recess time to make it pay off," Mills said. "And it did. They should all be proud of what they accomplished."
All told with the bake and scarves sale, Soldotna Lion's Club, Enstar employees, family, friends and an anonymous donation of $100, the class earned $1,146.14.
"We were shocked," Kristen said. "Our class worked hard and not just one person did it alone, but we didn't expect this much success."
The class was in for a bigger shock, when Bethany and Bob Rogers, Landon's parents, decided to let Landon make a rare public appearance and come to the school to thank them.
Mills said he called to let them know the Lion's Club was going to present a check to the kids and with the combined funds earned that there would be a sizable bit of money headed their way.
The kids went into over-drive making sure no one was sick and that Landon would be comfortable. Class artist Craig Hall drew Landon a picture of his favorite cartoon character, SpongeBob SquarePants.
"We did not expect anything back. We were glad to help out," Erika said. "But then they said thank you in person it was so cool, and really he is just sooooo cute."
Mills said Bethany baked the kids a cake and explained to the class what Landon's daily life is like, showed them his feeding tube and thank them for their support and help.
Mills said Kristen's idea was better than any lesson plan he could have come up with.
"They learned organization, how to work together, set goals, follow through, making business decisions, counting money, making change, making a product, advertising and speech writing," he said. "And they didn't realize they were learning, they just knew they were making a difference in their world."
For Kristen it was as simple as A-B-C.
"There are times when you just can't stand aside and let something bad happen if you can help it," she said.
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