WCU joins effort to raise money for sick schoolchild

Fifth-graders from Cullowhee Valley School visited Western Carolina University on Wednesday, Oct. 14, as part of a project to raise money for a sick classmate. At far left, Annalyse Nichols holds a paper crane while Aleta Cody (second from left) and Aleea Montgomery (right) teach WCU student Megan Downing how to fold a crane.

Fifth-graders from Cullowhee Valley School visited Western Carolina University on Wednesday, Oct. 14, as part of a project to raise money for a sick classmate. At far left, Annalyse Nichols holds a paper crane while Aleta Cody (second from left) and Aleea Montgomery (right) teach WCU student Megan Downing how to fold a crane.

The campus community at Western Carolina University is pitching in to raise money for a family whose child is sick with cancer.

Madison Hornbuckle, a fifth-grade student at Cullowhee Valley School, suffers from glioblastoma multiforme, a common and aggressive type of brain tumor. She and her mother, Stephanie Hornbuckle, often travel from their home in Cullowhee to spend weeks at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., where Madison receives treatment.

Inspired by a nonfiction book in which a sick Japanese girl believes folding paper cranes will help her recover, Madison’s classmates initiated a drive to fold 1,000 paper cranes in her honor, enlisting students in other grades to contribute. Encouraged by quick progress and an enthusiastic response, Madison’s classmates decided to turn their talent for crane-folding toward raising money to help pay for their friend’s travel and other expenses. The idea: to fold cranes out of $1,000 in paper money.

Avery Norris, a fifth-grader at Cullowhee Valley School, holds a paper crane as part of a fundraising effort Wednesday, Oct. 14, at Western Carolina University.

Avery Norris, a fifth-grader at Cullowhee Valley School, holds a paper crane as part of a fundraising effort Wednesday, Oct. 14, at Western Carolina University.

One of the students leading the effort, Annalyse Nichols, is the daughter of William Dee Nichols, a professor and head of the department of elementary and middle grades education in WCU’s College of Education and Allied Professions. When the children’s teacher, Lori Scott, asked Nichols if he would like to join the effort as a WCU service project, he quickly agreed.

“Western Carolina is proud to support projects like these,” Nichols said. “It is part of the WCU mission, and it’s what separates us from other universities. We truly see this as our role, to provide services like these for others in the community.”

Now, each of the five departments in the College of Education and Allied Professions is collecting money for the effort, and faculty and students have contacted Nichols to ask how they can get involved. The Phi Sigma Pi honors fraternity will collect money for the cause as a service project. “As initiates, we’re required to do a service, and this is so local, it’s immediately helping someone,” said Emma Miller, a junior majoring in special education who, as an initiate in the fraternity, suggested the idea. When Scott and nine of her students visited classrooms in WCU’s Killian Building on Wednesday, Oct. 14, members of the campus community even learned the art of folding a paper crane. Fifth-grader Avery Norris, above right, was among the Cullowhee Valley School students on campus that day.

The paper crane project has “mushroomed into something beyond anything I’d imagined,” said Scott, a teacher at Cullowhee Valley for eight years who earned her undergraduate and graduate degrees at WCU and is earning her doctorate in education at the university. The effort has so far raised about $300, which Madison received Thursday, Oct. 15, at the school.

The community’s response to her daughter’s illness has overwhelmed the family, said Stephanie Hornbuckle. “We know how blessed we are,” said Hornbuckle, adding that 80 percent of Madison’s tumor has been removed and the remainder is shrinking.