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Peers give support by the jarful

Students at Kaiser Elementary raise $4,948 to help medical bills of fellow student battling Burkitt’s lymphoma.

April 02, 2008|By Daniel Tedford

When Jacob Gaulrapp-Sparks’ mother told him his former Kaiser Elementary School classmates were holding a fundraiser to help the family pay for his medical bills he asked, “Why, mom? There’s other kids that need it more than I do.”

Jacob, 11, stopped going to Kaiser Elementary School last year after he fell ill, but it may have been his selfless attitude that inspired his friends at Kaiser to help him.

When they found out the now home-schooled boy was battling Burkitt’s lymphoma, they wanted to do something to help. So they decided to pass the penny jar around.

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On Wednesday, they got to have fun with the Big Give, Oprah-style.

“We love you, Jacob,” the Kaiser philanthropists roared as his mom, Maureen Sparks, accepted the $4,948 the school raised for the family’s medical bills.

The students and teachers collected $2,873 of it with spare change.

It was pretty clear to Kaiser Principal Barbara Harrington that Jacob’s classmates weren’t going to disappoint him.

At Wednesday’s assembly, Harrington recalled how one student, change in hand, walked up to the collection jars at lunch time.

“She said, ‘Well, I could buy a cookie or give the money,’” Harrington said. “’Guess I don’t need the cookie.’”

“When we first found out Jacob had cancer, it was kind of hard,” Jacob’s sister, 9-year-old Jordyn said. “But when Kaiser did the Big Give, it was awesome. Now, we can pay our medical bills.”

Jacob will receive his last chemotherapy round soon and is technically in clinical remission, his mother said.

Sparks accepted the check with her children at a ceremony for them Wednesday morning. Jacob waited for them in the car, as he was not feeling well.

Emily Barry was Jacob’s teacher last year when he was in fifth grade.

She had wanted to do something for Jacob, and when a student approached her about a coin drive, she went out and bought the jars for the project.

“We’ve never done anything like this before,” Barry said. “To see how happy [Maureen] was ... We are happy for them. If this can make a dent in their lives, it makes me feel fabulous. It makes me want to do it again.”

An emotional Sparks expressed her gratitude for the school’s gift.

“This is the sweetest, most loving thing anyone could do,” she said.


DANIEL TEDFORD may be reached at (714) 966-4632 or at daniel.tedford@latimes.com.

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