Students, teachers and parents at St. Joseph School have said they are as close as family, but what happens when one of those family members goes through a rough patch?
Twelve-year-old Keegan Smith is a sixth grader at St. Joseph School. Despite having a heart transplant when he was three weeks old, Keegan has been healthy since he was five years old, said his mother Dawn Ragan.
This school year has had it’s tough spots, though. Keegan was in the hospital this fall for 17 days with pneumonia. Now, he has been at Arkansas Children’s Hospital for 15 days with acute kidney failure after getting sick with a few common viruses.
"It’s things that wouldn’t be a big deal to most kids," Dawn said. "But because he was so sick, it hurt his kidneys. Now, we’re just waiting it out here at the hospital."
This fall when Keegan was in the hospital for 17 days, his teachers were able to get him his assignments to make sure he stayed caught up with his school work.
"He’s an A/B student," Dawn said. "In the second quarter he made all B’s, even though that’s when we were in the hospital for 17 days."
Not only that, he had visitors who were able to come and hang out with him while he recovered.
Unfortunately, the hospital does not allow young children in the ICU right now because of flu viruses going around, but St. Joseph School students and teachers haven’t let that stand in the way of showing Keegan they care.
Sarah Luyet’s son is best friends with Keegan. They go to school together and live across the street. Seeing her son’s best friend in the hospital spurred Sarah to take action to help his family.
"I came up with the idea to ask the school to take up a love offering for Keegan and his mom," she said.
An email went out to the elementary, middle and high schools about Keegan’s situation and they worked on ways to raise money for him.
On Valentine’s Day, students — who usually wear uniforms — could wear non-uniform shirts and accessories for $1 per item. Additionally, the family and consumer science class sold chocolate-covered strawberries to add to the funds for Keegan’s family.
Ultimately, the school raised just shy of $4,000 with the "Care 4 Keegan" campaign. Sarah said that money went directly to Keegan’s mom to take care of medical expenses, cost of going to Little Rock and anything else she needs to care for her son.
"It’s just amazing to be a part of a school where we really are just one big family," she said.
In addition to the money, because it is a Catholic school, classes have been praying for Keegan’s recovery every morning.
"We all firmly believe in the power of prayer," Sarah said.
Right now, Sarah’s son is "not so patiently" waiting for Keegan to come home, but they have plans to FaceTime soon.
Keegan’s mom Dawn went to St. Joseph as a child, and she said the school feels like a family to her.
"If we ever ran into things like this, I know there’s a close bond there," she said. "The teachers work with us. It’s more personal."
The teachers have been working with Dawn and Keegan again to help him keep up with his school work, and even though they can’t visit, students have been sending cards to let Keegan know they care about him and are praying for him.
"They’re just a tremendous blessing," Dawn said.
(Staff writer Angela Spencer can be reached by email at email@example.com or by phone at 505-1212. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)