By Ryan Cornell
Students and staff at North Fork Middle School are rallying to help one of their own.
George Breighner, an eighth grader at North Fork, was diagnosed last month with a disease known as acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, or ADEM. The disease, which can be triggered by a cold or a viral infection, caused lesions on George's brain and spine, according to his mother, Robin Breighner.
She said George came home from school on March 13 and "wasn't all there," so she took him to the Shenandoah Memorial Hospital in Woodstock. At first, doctors thought he might have had a concussion, after George told them that he bumped his head on a computer, but when the next day slipped by and he didn't show any signs of improvement, they knew it was something more serious.
On March 15, George was flown to a hospital at the University of Virginia, where he was diagnosed with ADEM and treated. Breighner said George has been recovering and undergoing physical and occupational therapy at the Kennedy Krieger Institute rehabilitation center in Baltimore since March 31.
North Fork Middle School is hosting a fundraising campaign, Project George, to help pay for his family's medical and rehabilitation expenses. Principal Shelby Kline said the idea for the campaign started about three weeks ago when the school faculty decided to chip in to help the family with their mounting bills.
There are four different fundraisers organized to support Project George, including:
- A spaghetti dinner at North Fork Middle School from 4 to 7 p.m. May 2.
- A fundraiser selling barbecue pork sandwiches for $3.50 each (orders are due May 9).
- A car wash in the First Bank parking lot in Mount Jackson from noon to 4 p.m. May 10, held by the school's orchestra students.
- A competition between classes to collect the most loose change, started by the school's Celebrating Strong Young Women Class.
Kline said she feels proud of the generosity shown by her students.
"They might only have 50 cents in their pocket or a quarter in their pocket, but they will choose to give it to someone else rather than spend it on ice cream," she said "...I think from the principal's perspective, it really makes me smile that all of our students and staff members come together to help each other, and that's what it's all about."
Breighner, who said George is scheduled to come back home on Friday, added she's been surprised with the amount of support from the middle school.
"He misses school a lot," she said. "The teachers and all, they've been contacting me off and on through the whole thing, seeing how he's been, how he's getting along and everything."
For more information about the Project George campaign, or to order pork barbecue sandwiches, contact Bookkeeper Summer Baker or Kline at 540-477-2953. Checks can be made out to North Fork Middle School with "Project George" in the memo line.
Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or firstname.lastname@example.org