GREENFIELD — One dollar bought the privilege of wearing a hat to school. Two meant a stuffed animal could tag along. Three? Wear pajamas to school.
Students at J.B. Stephens Elementary School usually exchange small gifts, like books or folders, during their winter parties; but this year, the school’s third- graders decided to celebrate by honor- ing a friend who is no longer with them.
They hosted a fundraiser to benefit the memorial fund for Christina Kellermeier, who died last fall after a lengthy battle with brain cancer.
Christi Leininger’s class raised $800 in donations for the Christina Kellermeier Fund, which will benefit J.B. Stephens students in the future. Christina was a student in Leininger’s class, so her classmates took the lead on the project. Donations from staff and other classes brought the total to $1,100.
Leininger said Christina’s classmates were excited to think that because of Christina, kids at J.B. Stephens who need help will have somewhere to turn. And they remembered their classmate along the way.
Christina would have loved pajama day, they said.
Being witness to the generosity of the students was overwhelming, Lein- inger said.
“As teachers, as a parent, we try to instill giving and thoughtfulness in our children, and it is amazing to see,” she said. “Especially at a time when money is tight. Their generosity was overflowing.”
Lori Gossett, Christina’s mother, said she wasn’t surprised to hear that her classmates were organizing the fundraising drive. It’s the giving spirit she’s seen all along.
Christina’s teachers, classmates and friends have all supported the family since Christina’s diagnosis several years ago, she said.
“The only thing that surprises me is that they keep surpassing themselves on what they do,” Gossett said.
Mary Gibble, president of the Hancock County Community Foundation, which oversees the fund, said money raised is designated to go to J.B. Stephens Elementary School every year. The fund totals $15,000 and will provide a grant of about $750 a year.
“This will have a great deal of impact on a larger amount of children than a scholarship fund might have,” she said.
The fund doesn’t have a designated purpose yet, but Gossett has some ideas.
She envisions a project she calls Christina’s Closet, which would provide clothes to students in need.
What better way to honor the outgoing little girl who dreamed of being a fashion designer?
“She had her own very unique style,” her mother said. “She loved clothes, soft clothes, bright and flamboyant — not necessarily what everyone else wore. … It’s fitting that her classmates will be able to remember her and give back in that way.”
Though she said it’s impossible to explain the pain of losing a child, it helps immensely to know her daughter will never be forgotten, she added.
“It helps to know people loved her,” Gossett said. “Some people go their whole lives and never know how their child impacts the world. Christina was only 9 years old, and I am seeing the good she did.”
“She wanted to be a fashion designer, so it’s fitting that her classmates will be able to remember her and give back in that way.”
Lori Gossett, mother of Christina Kellermeier, who died last fall after a lengthy battle with brain cancer
Donations to the Christina Kellermeier Fund should be sent to Hancock County Community Foundation, 312 E. Main St., Greenfield, IN 46140.