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Rock Hill elementary students raise money for children with cystic fibrosis

Everybody loves kisses. Girls love kisses. Boys do, too - if the kisses are chocolate kisses.

Even the littlest kids at Belleview Elementary School in Rock Hill know that sick children need help. So the kids in Krystle James' kindergarten class and Kaleena Gibson's third-grade class sold kisses.

Better still, they sold the kisses by the spoonful.

Each spoon with two kisses wrapped up nice and pretty sold for 50 cents. They sold the kisses around school and hit up family members and friends. They sold kisses to grannies and paw-paws.

The 40 kids in the two classes sold a whopping 1,080 kisses - raising $540.

All the money will go to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, which researches a disease that clogs lungs and other organs with a thick, sticky mucus. Cystic fibrosis can lead to life-threatening infections and keep the body from properly breaking down and absorbing food.

But these kids at Belleview did not choose cystic fibrosis out of the blue. A teacher at Belleview, Elicia Miller, has a 3-year-old son battling cystic fibrosis.

Little Hudson Miller has to take more than 30 medications a day.

So on Monday, after the weeks-long fundraiser, many of the kids who sold the most kisses gathered at the end of the school day and walked down to Elicia Miller's classroom, where the school's tiniest students learn numbers and letters.

Leading the charge was London Mitchum, 6, a kindergartener who probably sold the most kisses of all.

"Miss Miller was my teacher when I was little," said London, who, at age 6, is no longer "little."

Graylynn Phillips, all of 5 herself, with pigtails flying, embraced Miller. She too, learned from Miller.

"I hope he feels better," said Graylynn.

The two teachers who organized the fundraiser said the children took the spoonfuls of kisses as a challenge.

"The kids just loved it," James said. "Each of them worked hard to sell the kisses, to be a part of something."

Gibson said the idea of service to others can start in the early grades.

"They knew they were trying to help someone else," she said.

Miller, that teacher of pre-kindergarteners with the sick child at home, was so appreciative. Each year, she works with a walk to raise money for cystic fibrosis, coming up May 5 at Cherry Park.

The $540 will be donated along with all the money Miller and others raise then.

"Thank you," she told the kids.

But then, an 8-year-old, Jaythen Moore, spoke for the third-graders who helped.

"We hope that this helps a child feel better," said Jaythen. "We hope that your son is cured."

All the kids there - Graylynn Phillips and London Mitchum and Natalie Guo and Yasmin Marquez from James' kindergarten class - were so proud to help somebody else. The third-graders - Jaythen Moore, Shane Blakeney, Aaron Pendergrass, and Alexander Johnson - well, they were just as proud and honored.

The bag with the money in it had some bills in it, and a bunch of silver change. It was heavy with quarters.

Miller accepted the money and then hugged all those kids who had raised $540, two kisses at a time - kisses that might help her son.

Jaythen Moore, 8, who has already learned about how other people can, at times, be more important than himself, said this:

"If we can help your son, it is all good."

Jaythen Moore did not get a kiss from Elicia Miller the teacher, but he sure got one big hug.

Video below

What is cystic fibrosis?

Cystic fibrosis, caused by gene mutations, is a life-threatening disorder that affects the lungs and digestive system.

In individuals with cystic fibrosis, proteins that act as gateways on the surface of cells that control the flow of salt and water are defective or missing. Without the protein working properly, thick, sticky mucus builds up in the lungs. Symptoms include persistent coughing, infections, shortness of breath and poor weight gain.

About 70,000 people worldwide have cystic fibrosis, with nearly half in the United States. Most cystic fibrosis patients don't live past their mid-30s. The median age of survival is 37.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the first drug to treat the cause of cystic fibrosis. The drug, Kalydeco, treats a rare form of the disorder that affects roughly 3 to 6 percent of patients.

McClatchy Newspapers

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