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CUMBERLAND â€” On Friday, March 15, students at Cumberland High School had Aydan Nyberg in their hearts â€” 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 high school to show support for him in a variety of ways, including wearing orange-colored clothing â€” because orange is his favorite color â€” and holding a number of fundraising projects.
Orange was everywhere in the school, in the schoolâ€™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 â€śAydanâ€™s Army,â€ť one of the youthâ€™s supporters explained.
â€śI did it because I wanted to show respect for Aydan and send him support,â€ť Moulaye Sangare, a ninth-grade member of the wrestling and football teams, said of his own orange get up for school on Friday. â€śWe also raised money to let him know we care,â€ť he said.
Some students at the school bought orange T-shirts to help defray Aydanâ€™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 schoolâ€™s fundraising effort.
â€śHis story was a meaningful story for everyone and it just inspired us to do as much as we could to donate to his cause,â€ť Lussier said.
Some of the students brought in Legos to donate to Hasbro Childrenâ€™s Hospital and there was an opportunity during the schoolâ€™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 hemotherapy, radiation and surgery for that illness, faced a new battle with a form of leukemia, according to his website, â€śAydanâ€™s Army.â€ť He has also undergone bone marrow transplants in his latest fight and undergone treatment at Hasbro Childrenâ€™s Hospital, Boston Childrenâ€™s Hospital, the Dana Faber Cancer Institute, and St. Judeâ€™s Childrenâ€™s Hospital.
Cassidy Nunes, another of Aydanâ€™s Army members at Cumberland High School, said she found Aydanâ€™s story to be inspirational.
â€śHeâ€™s been through so much we just felt we had to wear his favorite color to show support for him,â€ť said Nunes, a tenth grader.
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 Aydanâ€™s.
â€śI think they know if they were to go through something like that, it would be devastating,â€ť she said.
Sheehan also believes wearing Aydanâ€™s favorite color could have an impact on him. â€śBecause 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,â€ť she said.
Although the orange clothes and signed banners were only symbols of their support, Maddie Anderson, another tenth-grader, said it was important for the students â€śto show that we care.â€ť
â€śWe know about what he has had to face and we want to help him.â€ť
A day earlier, the students had raised about $500 for Aydanâ€™s cause, Anderson noted, and that amount had been likely doubled or more with everything the school did March 15.
Teachers at the high school took photographs of all the studentsâ€™ fundraising activities and planned to give Aydan and his family a scrapbook as a keepsake.
The color of orange had also seeped into Cumberland High Principal Alan Tenreiro office that same day. His secretary, Kate Tracey, was wearing orange, and he also had on a sweater with that tint.
In addition to having â€śClipper Pride,â€ť the schoolâ€™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 last week, Tenreiro said it was enough â€śto give you goose bumps to see so many students living up to those expectations.â€ť
The Aydanâ€™s Army website can be found at www.aydansarmy.org.