Editor’s Note: This story was originally published on Omaha.com
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By Bryan Redemske
The drive from Omaha to St. Louis takes about seven hours, assuming a pit stop along the way.
Ingrind Sanchez has made that drive regularly since late September, when her 8-year-old son, Andrey, was taken to Children’s Hospital in St. Louis in need of a heart transplant.
The boy’s mother would drive down to be with her son, then drive back to Omaha for a few days at work and then head south again.
Andrey, a first-grader at Masters Elementary School in northwest Omaha, hasn’t been in school since September. But that doesn’t mean his classmates and friends haven’t been thinking about him.
Under the direction of resource teacher Emily Bradrick, the Masters student council organized a fundraiser called A Dime a Day for Andrey in hopes of helping out with some of the costs of that long and frequent drive.
A student who donated a dollar or more got to write his or her name on a paper heart and tape it to the wall in the school’s main hallway. To promote the cause, student council members made posters to hang in the halls, and a note was included in the weekly newsletter. Teachers who donated $5 got to wear jeans for the day.
When the drive ended in November, the hall was — and remains — filled with hearts. And students and staff had donated more than $3,000 to Andrey’s family.
“It was over the top,” Bradrick said. “It was awesome. It’s a good accomplishment for the kids. The student council is very proud.”
And the Sanchez family is grateful for the support. Throughout Andrey’s time in St. Louis, he stayed with his grandmother in a Ronald McDonald House. Meanwhile, Andrey’s mother and sister, Gabbi, who is in sixth grade at Masters, made the drives back and forth.
“We’re very thankful for how the school came together in a time of need,” Ingrind Sanchez said. “It shows how much love and support everyone has for Andrey and our family.”
Andrey first had heart problems in 2010, before he started school at Masters.
Over the summer he was in and out of the hospital, but started this school year with his classmates.
“His mom never thought he’d be able to come to school at all,” Masters Principal Jacki Weir said.
After falling ill one weekend in September, Andrey’s heart stopped while he was at a doctor’s appointment on the following Monday. He was in St. Louis two days later, where he was placed on the waiting list for a donor heart.
Last week Andrey returned home, where he’ll be able to resume his schoolwork.
Because he didn’t officially live in St. Louis or the surrounding area, he wasn’t eligible for education services at the Ronald McDonald House. Now he’ll be able to catch up, with help from Omaha Public Schools specialists.
And when a heart is available, he and his mother will head back to St. Louis for the surgery.
Bradrick plans to organize a second fund drive after the holiday break and hopes to spread the message throughout the district.
“We’re very thankful for everything she’s done,” Ingrind Sanchez said.
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