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Coleman Students Send Letters to a Special St. Jude Patient

Any friend of Brody Nelson’s is a friend of the Coleman Colts.

                Coleman Elementary students have been engaged in drawing pictures, writing letters and creating cards all destined for a North Carolina kindergartner who was Brody’s best “St. Jude” friend and a fellow warrior. Brody passed away in August of 2019, at the age of ten, following a courageous battle with cancer. Ribbons of green, his favorite color, are still tied around the trunks of trees at Coleman Elementary one year later.

                The letters are coinciding with the observance of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Coleman kindergarten teacher Amy Thomas, who had Brody as a student, said the letter-writing effort was prompted by a St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital video.

                “We were taking a brain break and my kids were engaged in a Go Noodle activity when a St. Jude video came on,” Thomas said. “It mentioned that their patients loved receiving letters from other children during their stay in the hospital. That day, during writing time, my students drew pictures and decorated cards for the patients. I mentioned this to our Assistant Principal, Dea Griffith, who had the idea of having the entire school write letters.”

                To clarify if COVID precautions were limiting mail for St. Jude patients, Brody’s mother was contacted. Courtney Nelson came back with a suggestion that the letters go to Brody’s friend, Cami, who is fighting the same form of cancer and was placed on the same medication as Brody. Their friendship was born at St. Jude.

                “That’s how they and our families crossed paths,” Courtney said. “As we did with Brody, Cami travels to St. Jude once a month. She just received the results of her latest scans and they were clear—again. When Amy called me about the cards they were making, Cami immediately came to my mind.”

                From drawings of rainbows, smiley faces and hearts to messages of “I’m praying for you,” “I know you’re going to make it through this” and “Don’t’ give up!” some very special mail is now headed to the Colts’ new best friend. 

                “It is so cool that Coleman is attached to Brody, and Brody is attached to Cami,” Courtney said. “It feels like Coleman is there for Cami while Brody is not. This doesn’t just help Cami. It helps Brody’s friends and cousins at Coleman—it helps a lot of us.”

                “Knowing kids all across the United States are wanting her to get well and praying for her is amazing to Cami and her family,” Courtney said. “Getting cards from Coleman students will be tremendous. Texas means Brody to Cami.”

                Brody’s battle with cancer has raised awareness at Coleman about the level of impact the disease has on children. It remains the number one cause of death by disease for children under 14 in America. Gold has been chosen as the color to symbolize childhood cancer, reflecting how precious children are and the resiliency of childhood cancer warriors.

                “To be honest, I never realized September was Childhood Cancer Awareness Month until Brody was diagnosed with cancer,” Thomas said. “His mom and dad became so good at bringing facts and awareness to us. They shared Brody’s story so we could all take action in any way we could. For some people it’s donating money or volunteering at a hospital, for others it’s doing a 5K to raise awareness or something as simple as sharing a Facebook post about childhood cancer. Anything we can do to raise awareness and support research might lead to a cure to childhood cancer. Wouldn’t that be a glorious day—a day that no child or parent would have to endure such a terrible disease.”

                Thomas was able to visit Brody at St. Jude during one of his summer stays. Brody put a “face” on St. Jude for his kindergarten teacher.

                “I had heard of St. Jude and seen the commercials on TV but didn’t know all the wonderful things they did,” Thomas said. “When I was lucky enough to visit Brody, I saw for myself how St. Jude does each and every thing with the kids in mind. Brody was so proud to show me around the hospital.”

                “This is about remembering those who are still battling,” Coleman Counselor Valerie Patterson said. “Because of Brody, St. Jude made an impression on us and brought what they do for children and families to our awareness. These cards for Cami are a gesture of kindness and love and we are honored to do this.”

                Second grade teacher Brenda Stepp said the project was timely for students in her class.

                “The first thing I instill in my students is kindness—doing things purposely for others,” Stepp said. “These kids remember Brody. They are excited to do this and that shows the impact he made—because they still remember him. They are very impressed that they are doing something for his friend.”

                “Strong Like Brody” t-shirts worn by Coleman staff and students from the time he was diagnosed in early 2018 are still spotted on the Coleman campus, where his smile and strength are remembered.

                “Kids who fight cancer are true heroes to me,” Thomas said. “Brody is my favorite hero, but I’m biased because I was lucky enough to be his kindergarten teacher. He will never be forgotten at Coleman. We will carry on his ‘never give up,’ spirit. His motto, ‘fight like Brody,’ will continue to encourage our Coleman Colts as we navigate through a hard time, a tough test or a challenging project. Coleman Elementary is a better place because Brody Nelson was a Coleman Colt.”