Students, staff, teachers and parents at Bryan’s Houston Elementary School raised more than $2,000 in honor of first grader Aisley Putz, who is battling cancer.
To celebrate exceeding their fundraising goal of $500, the school put on a pep rally during which Aisley — with help from some teachers — painted Houston Elementary Principal Mandy Wells in gold spray body paint.
With gold representing the ribbon color for childhood cancer, the fundraising campaign was called “Going Gold for Aisley.” Aisley’s mom, Tracy Putz, said the color represents how children are “more precious than gold.”
Aisley was diagnosed last year, when she was a kindergartner.
“She had been just having leg pain off and on for about a month, and finally we took her in the day after Thanksgiving to just get some blood work just to kind of ease our mind, and it was not good. She had leukemia,” Putz said. “Since then she’s been through lots: several inpatient hospital stays, lots of chemo, lots of illness, infections.”
Aisley is now undergoing maintenance therapy, which she will complete in 2021.
Following her diagnosis last year, Aisley missed the rest of kindergarten at school but kept up with her peers with her teacher visiting her at home. Then, this year, she started back at Houston Elementary School as a first grader.
Overall, Putz said, her daughter is doing well, but she still has leg troubles and other issues due to the chemotherapy.
“She’s still sick a lot, but she’s doing good. She loves school. They’ve been amazing, so welcoming,” she said.
Aisley’s counts were low leading up to the pep rally, Putz said. There were worries she might get a fever, which would mean she would have to go home.
“We were, all week long, just praying that we would make it through and she’d be able to come,” she said.
When the day arrived, Aisley began painting Wells and played and danced with her classmates.
“This has just been wonderful. We’re getting there,” Putz said. “… It just makes my heart so happy, because we were actually talking it up all week because we were worried getting around all these people that she’d get nervous and shy. … She looked like she had a blast.”
The Going Gold for Aisley campaign ended Sept. 27, the final Friday of September — childhood cancer awareness month — with a total of $2,333 raised to benefit Dell Children’s Medical Center in Austin.
With an original goal set at $500, the school sent flyers home with students and students donated to participate in themed days, such as wearing hats or bringing stuffed animals to school. Aisley even donated her tooth fairy money to make sure they hit the $500 goal.
Ultimately, the school more than $1,000 was raised by Friday, but an offer to match the funds pushed the total beyond the $2,000 mark.
“It’s just been an honor, almost, to be on this journey with Aisley,” Wells said. “She’s very, very courageous, and she is very tough.”
Aisley’s shirt encouraged people to “fight like a kid.” Wells described the first grader as “a fighter,” saying she not only attended her kindergarten graduation in the spring, but also walked across the stage.
“She’s got a lot of grit,” Wells said. “She’s a tough little girl, she really, truly is. She is just really courageous.”
The purpose is to help raise money and awareness for childhood cancer, Putz said.
“Childhood cancer gets less than 4% of all federal funding,” she said. “… A lot of foundations and parent groups do their own fundraising. There’s been a lot of foundation formed to raise awareness and raise money for research for childhood cancer because the government’s just not putting it out there.”
The campaign and pep rally was the result of an organizing committee at the school, Wells said, and was just their way of showing Aisley how special she is.
“We love Aisley. We support her 100%,” she said. “She’s my girl. I love her. She’s my hero. She truly is my hero. I mean that when I say that. I admire her.”