Student to spend summer making boy's dream
BY JESSICA SMITH
Like most students her age, Roxann MtJoy, 16, is looking forward to summer vacation - no homework, time to hang out with friends, a summer job and heading a fund-raising campaign to send a 7-year-old with muscular dystrophy to Disney World.
Though she was one of 70 students selected nationwide to attend a college prep program at Georgetown University, Roxann, a sophomore at Jefferson-Morgan High School, decided to stay home to complete a service project to send Jeremy Holmes, of Prosperity, on a kid's dream vacation. "I wasn't going to go to Georgetown and try to fit the Jeremy Fund in," she said. "I'd rather just stay here and do justice to the Jeremy Fund."
Roxann met Jeremy while helping her mother, Sunny MtJoy, at Trinity West Elementary School, where she works as a teacher's aide in the autistic support department.
A first-grader, Jeremy attends classes like homeroom, art and gym with a traditional class. His other classes, though, he takes through autistic support.
Because of his autism, Jeremy does not talk without prompting, even to tell others what he wants or needs. He also suffers from Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a degenerative disease that is causing him to lose muscle tone. He is still able to move around without assistance, but his mother, Suzanne Fuller, explained that his "legs, arms and spine are starting to go."
"It is heartbreaking that he won't be able to walk soon," Roxann said. "It just seems really important to me that he should be able to go on this vacation."
Jeremy's mother said she was overwhelmed when she heard what Roxann planned to do. "It was so sweet. It just brought me to tears," she said.
So Roxann got to work. She called airlines. She made posters. She distributed collection jars.
Roxann has found that the desire to help Jeremy is contagious. Roxann's friends have volunteered their efforts in calling local businesses, distributing the collection jars and brainstorming other fund-raising ideas. A bake sale and car wash are planned for later this summer.
Debbie Snee, PTA president at Trinity West, found out about Roxann's plan and asked if the students at the school could help. Each classroom at Trinity West was supplied with a jar in which students and faculty members could make contributions. Besides helping Jeremy, the kids had another motivation for depositing their pocket change: The teacher whose jar had the most money as of Tuesday had to kiss a cow.
Fourth-grade teacher Marie Harless fulfilled her end of the bargain and kissed a cow named Angel Tuesday at the school. More than $800 was raised.
Roxann used her computer to produce cards with Jeremy's picture urging people to "Support the Jeremy Holmes Fund." Customers can donate a dollar and get a card with their name on it displayed in the window of an Amoco gas station. One store sold $200 worth of the cards.
Thus far, Roxann has raised about half of the $2,500 she estimates will be needed to send Jeremy and his mother to Disney World.
Roxann says she has been amazed at how willing people are to help.
"People ask me what I'm doing this summer, I tell them, and they give me money," she said.
Local businesses, including Rice Electric, where Jeremy's stepfather works, have contacted her saying they would like to get involved. Some people have signed their names on the back of the cards they bought and requested someone get in touch with them so they can help.
Fuller says Jeremy is used to being the center of attention. "Everyone knows him," she said. "We'll be in WalMart and little kids will come up and say, 'Hi, Jeremy.' "
Roxann isn't quite sure if Jeremy is aware of what is going on, but Fuller relates that a few days ago she overheard Jeremy, who was in the living room by himself, singing, "It's a Small World."
This fund-raising effort will help more than just Jeremy. The autistic support teacher in Jeremy's class, Mary Ann Rocco, related that the entire school is excited. "It's just amazing," she said, "their support for children with special needs. And the kids are just so compassionate and understanding."
Fuller said Roxann's initiative has touched her, too. "It makes you feel good, knowing that there are people out there who are willing to be good people instead of the usual people who don't care."
BY JESSICA SMITH