STATE ROAD — Carrie Elmore spent the evening of Dec. 18 hanging out with girlfriends, getting her nails painted, decorating cupcakes and pillowcases, eating popcorn and watching a movie.
It was a typical girl’s night out for an 8-year-old. The 34 girls laughed, scrambled around the floor for candy from a piñata and had an overall good time in the media center at Mountain Park Elementary School which had been transformed into a winter wonderland.
The special part of the evening was that the girls are third through fifth graders at the school and the night was a slumber party organized by the school with the help of the community for Carrie, who is battling Ewing Sarcoma, a type of cancer.
The school’s faculty, staff and Parent Teacher Organization, along with Antioch Baptist Church, the Surry County Schools maintenance staff and Lowe’s Hardware volunteered time and supplies to put on the party which provided an evening of fun and relief for the entire Elmore family.
“The goal was to provide a fun, stress-free event for an 8-year-old little girl and her family,” said Alison York, principal at Mountain Park Elementary. “The thing that impressed me most is the love that backed it all and how important it is that we stick together.”
The idea for the slumber party came from the student services team, which is a group of staff members that looks at the needs of students. Everyone, including faculty members, put on their pajamas for the event which lasted from 3 to 8 p.m. because Carrie really wanted it to be a slumber party.
“It was about memorable moments for the family,” said Becky Johnson, a school social worker. “A lot of people have done a lot of things. It was about the experience, the memories. It’s something that wasn’t attached to money.”
The evening certainly provided plenty of memories not only for Carrie but for her family as well.
“She doesn’t get to be there a whole lot. It put a smile on her face and she got to be with her friends. It was good for them to come together and realize that life is short,” said Kristy Elmore, Carrie’s mom. “She still talks about it off and on. These are things she can remember, and remember that yes, she wasn’t forgotten. To see them all pull together and give up a night with their families was very touching. To have a break, to be able to laugh and see her smile, with chemo we don’t see that a whole lot.”
Volunteers, many of whom are teachers at the school, spent the evening making sure the girls had a blast. They set up stations for the girls to get their nails painted, make beads, decorate a pillowcase, a cookie and a cupcake, make tie-dyed bandanas, decorate bookmarks and treat bags. They sang karaoke and busted open a piñata shaped like a snowman. Donna Pruett made balloon reindeer for all of the girls and a couple other bigger balloon creations for Carrie. Everyone also signed a pillowcase for Carrie to help her remember the evening.
“Everybody donated everything they did,” said Johnson. “We had that faith that the money would come, but in the end, we didn’t need it.”
For the family, the support from the community, which has already provided so much, was overwhelming.
“Where do you begin? What it meant for us ... wow. The biggest thing is seeing the community pull together and really show their love and concern. It’s overwhelming,” said Kristy.
“The questions were not let’s do this another day, not how can we do this, it was what can we do? They rearranged their schedules to make sure we could do for this family what they needed to be done,” said Johnson.
In a show of support for Carrie and her battle, the school got Live Strong bracelets for all the girls there and the staff. Carrie demonstrates the philosophy of living strong daily as she continues to attend school whenever she can.
“She is determined. She knows God’s in control. Her philosophy is to help other kids when she’s older. Her philosophy is that somebody will be touched by her life. She is very strong-willed and determined. We’re very proud of her,” said Kristy, speaking for herself and her husband, Kinsey. “When you can give her that little bit of normal life, that’s her main thing.”
“She has Mrs. Riggs who has been awesome. The other students in her class really look out for Carrie. They are a special little class,” said York.
“It’s right that we do things for the families because that helps the student excel. There’s a lot right with our schools. They do something for the kids every day,” said Johnson. “She doesn’t want to be treated any differently. When she was down and out, this school lifted her up. She wants to be here.”
Because the community has held fundraisers for the family in the past, the school wanted to do something different. They wanted to do something specifically for Carrie and her family in order to give them a chance to take a break.
“We talked about our perception of three years of treatment and the toll that has taken on the family. We thought about what can we do now to help this family, to lighten the burden for this family right now,” said Johnson.
“It’s very overwhelming. What they’ve done, there’s not enough words to express. A lot of them are good Christian people,” said Kristy. “Good things do come out of bad situations. There’s still hope. It’s hard to roll all the emotions into one thing, it’s hard to describe. This is a very awesome community to see their love and support.”
The girls even learned about a few of the ways they can give back to the community that has provided so much support. Ken Johnson spoke to them about community service. He has donated plasma and platelets throughout his life.
Throughout the past three years, the family has received support from the entire community, but according to Kristy, they get support from one source.
“Our support comes from nobody but Jesus Christ and from that we have peace. If someone can come to know God, then this will be worth it,” she said. “God will give you that peace if you let him into your life. He’s been there all this time. (Carrie’s) a miracle herself right now. The man said she had two months and she’s at a year.
“That should be our main goal is to help others. There’s still good people left. Mountain Park has always been a very close community.”
According to York, that support is exactly what Carrie needs, that is as long as people do not try to treat her any differently.
Contact Morgan Wall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1929.