When Amelia "Emmy" Foster arrived at Spencer Loomis Elementary School on Monday, it didn't take long for her to steal the hearts of everyone around her.
As soon as her mom, Colleen, let Emmy out of her stroller, the 3-year-old rushed toward the dozens of students gathered in the multipurpose room. But as eager as Emmy was to see them, the students were even happier to meet Emmy.
The Spencer Loomis students recently completed a fundraiser, Jeans for Genes, with the local Two Hearts Rock nonprofit group. The money raised will help support Rett syndrome research. Emmy suffers from Rett syndrome, which is a rare genetic disorder that robs young children diagnosed with it of their verbal and motor skills.
Spencer Loomis students made denim ribbons and sold them for $1 each. The children, members of the school's Student Council, raised $1,130 on their own. Thanks to a matching donation from CorDynamics of Chicago, the students presented a check for $2,260 to Colleen and Emmy Foster on Monday.
"It's overwhelming," said Colleen, a former Spencer Loomis teacher. "These kids are just so sweet to have worked so hard to help our cause."
Two Hearts Rock co-founders Kerry Hughes and Lori Butler were proud of the students' efforts.
"I just want to applaud you," said Hughes. "I think you did an outstanding job."
Hughes told the students she was "absolutely amazed" at their success.
"You should feel very proud of yourselves, and we're very proud of you," said Hughes.
Mayor Suzanne Branding was also on hand to meet the students.
"Thank you for what you've done, because you've made a difference in someone's life," said Branding.
Fourth-graders Jamison Horning and Rianna Sebastian said the project was definitely a group effort. Sebastian described how different groups of students took on different tasks; some pinned the ribbons, while others fastened them to information cards. The students also made posters.
"I was happy that we got to work together," said Horning.
The students were pleased with their efforts.
"I was happy with how much we raised," said fifth-grader Ashley Knutter, who added that she'd like to "say 'thank you' (to donors) for helping a really good cause."
"I was happy that we got to help Emmy Foster," said fifth-grader Elizabeth Crutchfield. She added, jokingly, that she "was happy because jeans are totally in right now."
"I really hope we get to do it again because it was a really good cause," said fourth-grader Cami Malak.