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School rallies around ill 5-year-old
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School rallies around ill 5-year-old
Students raise more than $13K for schoolmate's family




Five-year-old Harrison Barnett became a member of Wilson Christian Academy’s varsity boys' basketball team Friday evening.

Wearing a jersey made especially for him, Harrison sat on the bench with the team and his father.

The special moment Wilson Christian Academy supporters dubbed "Hoops 4 Harrison” was the culmination of a series of fundraisers undertaken by the school’s students, faculty, parents and community supporters to raise money to help Harrison and his family with his medical expenses.

As of Friday morning, more than $10,000 had been raised. By Friday night’s game, the amount had grown to $13,444.77.

On Friday morning, members of the school’s National Honor Society were still taping bright red hearts with messages for Harrison on a wall inside the gymnasium. Students and faculty could buy the hearts and write Harrison a message of hope and support.

Harrison, who was born with hypoplastic kidneys, contracted a rare infection in November. A high-power antibiotic Harrison was given resulted in him losing his hearing. His parents didn’t realize Harrison couldn’t hear until they’d returned home from the hospital on Dec. 23.

Instead of being able to do dialysis at home as they’ve previously done, Harrison and his family are driving to Chapel Hill three days per week for dialysis. They are also waiting to find out if the infection is completely gone.

Harrison is scheduled to have cochlear implant surgery on March 11 in hopes of restoring his ability to hear.

Discussions about helping Harrison and his family began about two and one-half weeks ago at Wilson Christian. Harrison is in the K-5 program at the private school.

Rachel Renfrow and Reid Petway, both seniors at Wilson Christian, were meeting with their faculty adviser for the National Honor Society who told them some faculty members had expressed an interest in raising money for the family.

Rachel and Reid jumped at the chance to head up the project.

Rachel knew Harrison only as the cute little boy she watched walk into the school building with his father each morning. She didn’t know about his medical problems.

Reid got to know Harrison while acting as his body guard of sorts during a school fun day. Reid walked around with Harrison and made sure the boy didn’t get hurt. Reid was touched by the fact Harrison would stand in line with the other children to do activities even though when he got to the front of the line, he couldn’t do them.

Reid also liked how the elementary school students would come up to Harrison during the fun day and try to make sure he was having a good time.

Ideas for selling the hearts, holding a bake sale, soliciting donations from the community, selling T-shirts and even Twittering messages supporting Harrison were born. Plans had been made to have a football toss to raise money. But the weather put a glitch in the plans. Football is Harrison’s favorite sport.

Donations are still coming in. Some business owners who pledged money are still sending in donations.

Reid and Rachel like the fact they didn’t have to motivate the student body to help. Their schoolmates were more than willing to give. Rachel said it’s cool how people are willing to come together to help others.

During Friday’s basketball game, Harrison was supposed to receive sports-related gifts. Area politicians were expected to either send letters of support to the family or attend Friday’s game.

Reid said the project has gotten a lot of awareness in the community. He said they wanted to "pack out the gym” to show support for Harrison and his family. Reid said even though Harrison can’t hear the noise the crowd made in the gym, he hopes Harrison understands people were cheering for him.

"We want to make the whole family feel special,” Reid said.

Dwight Vanderboegh, the school’s administrator, is impressed by the work Reid and Rachel have done on this project. He encouraged the students to run with their ideas. The first step involved the students contacting the family and explaining what they wanted to do to help.

"It is rather amazing to us that two seniors could be so creative and energetic about this project,” Vanderboegh said.

Harrison is the son of Charlie and Becky Barnett.

Anyone interested in being tested as a possible kidney donor for Harrison can contact Amy Woodard, living donor coordinator at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill, at 919-966-3079 or awoodard@unch.unc.edu.

creech@wilsontimes.com | 265-7822
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Dawn Bailey said...

We could all learn a lot from Harrison. He never complains no matter his circumstances. I am proud of our school and thankful to God for allowing us to rally around this young man!

Tuesday, February 04, 2014 at 6:55 PM
Donna Peed said...

The Lord was honored and a special family was blessed! To God be the glory!! Praying for Harrison and his family.

Saturday, February 01, 2014 at 2:41 PM
Marika Mercer said...

Proud to be a WCA Alumni!! Very proud of our school!


Saturday, February 01, 2014 at 1:37 PM
Jennifer George said...

Outstanding work Reid, Rachel and WCA!

Saturday, February 01, 2014 at 8:57 AM
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