CUMBERLAND – Students at Cumberland High School on Friday had Aydan Nyberg in their hearts – and on their sleeves.
Aydan, an eight-year-old student of the Cumberland Hill Elementary School, has been battling cancer since age 3 and has inspired the school to show support for him in a variety of ways, including wearing orange-colored clothing -- because orange is his favorite color -- and holding a number of fundraising projects.
Orange was everywhere in the school, in the school’s hallways and classrooms, in the school cafeteria, and also in the Wellness Center when orange-clad athletes began to show up for afternoon workouts.
The idea was show you were a member of “Aydan’s Army,” one of the youth’s supporters explained.
“I did it because I wanted to show respect for Aydan and send him support,” Moulaye Sangare, a ninth-grade member of the wrestling and football teams, said of his own orange get up for school on Friday. “We also raised money to let him know we care,” he said.
Some students at the school bought orange t-shirts to help defray Aydan’s medical costs and to contribute to cancer research and others purchased wristbands or raffle tickets to help out.
Jean-Luc Lussier, a ninth grader, said he also wanted to show respect for Aydan by wearing orange and to help out with the school’s fundraising effort.
“His story was a meaningful story for everyone and it just inspired us to do as much as we could to donate to his cause,” Lussier said.
Some of the students brought in Legos to donate to Hasbro Children’s Hospital and there was an opportunity during the school’s lunch periods to buy tickets for drawings held throughout the day. The students also signed a large banner for Aydan that was laid out on the cafeteria floor.
Aydan was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer at the age of three and after under going treatments including chemotherapy, radiation and surgery for that illness, faced a new battle with a form of leukemia, according to his website, “Aydan’s Army.” He has also undergone bone marrow transplants in his latest fight and undergone treatment at Hasbro Children’s Hospital, Boston Children’s Hospital, the Dana Faber Cancer Institute, and St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.
Cassidy Nunes, another of Aydan’s Army at Cumberland High School said she found Aydan’s story to be inspirational. “He’s been through so much we just felt we had to wear his favorite color to show support for him,” Nunes, a tenth grader, said. A fellow tenth grader, Lindsay Sheehan, said she believed a lot of kids in the school were wondering what they would do if a young sibling were to face an illness like Aydan’s.
“I think they know if they were to go through something like that, it would be devastating,” she said.
Sheehan also believes wearing Aydan’s favorite color could have an impact on him. “Because he is so young, he would look up to high school students, and I think it means a lot that we are able to support him,” she said.
Although the orange clothes and signed banners were only symbols of their support, Maddie Anderson, another 10 grader, said it was important for the students “to show that we care.”
“We know about what he has had to face and we want to help him,” she said. On Thursday the students had raised about $500 for Aydan’s cause, she noted, and that amount had been likely doubled or more with everything the school did on Friday.
Teachers at the school took photographs of all the student’s fundraising activities and planned to give Aydan and his family a scrapbook as a keepsake, she said.
The color of orange had also seeped into High School Principal Alan Tenreiro office on Friday. His secretary, Kate Tracey, was wearing orange, and he also had on a sweater of that tint.
In addition to having “Clipper Pride,” the school’s students have been working to add the concept of being part of the change they would like to see in their school, their community and the world, Tenreiro said.
As the student events unfolded in support of Aydan this week, Tenreiro said it was enough “to give you goose bumps to see so many students living up to those expectations.”
“That is what you had to feel when you saw the amount of care and compassion they showed for this little boy,” he said.
Aydan could not attend Friday’s activities because of his illness but Tenreiro said staff members who had contact with his family had related his parents’ appreciation for all of the students’ concern and support. “They were very grateful,” he said.