Hamburg Middle School’s EAST students have raised more than $7,000 to help a fellow Hamburg student purchase a piece of medical equipment that will help make her more mobile.
The fundraiser was started by students Jalie Tippen and Kyle Carpenter who put a donation jar in the Hamburg Middle School front office. After a teacher posted about it on social media, the donations rolled in faster than anyone expected.
“This is an amazing story, our community pulled together and took care of this precious girl,” Superintendent Tracy Streeter said. “A teacher with a vision and students choosing love. I am so proud of them.”
The fundraiser is to help Eve Simms, a Hamburg sixth grade student who often uses a wheelchair for personal mobility, purchase a Mobile Stander.
Simms’s story began Jan. 6, 2008, when she was born weighing only 4 pounds, 10 ounces. Other than that, however, everything else seemed fine, her mother Meagan said.
Evie battled jaundice for a couple of days after her birth, but her mother said that nothing else seemed alarming. After bringing her home, the girl had to return to the local hospital weekly for blood draws to check her bilirubin levels, and Meagan said, they continued to be high.
“Meanwhile, this tiny beautiful baby girl screamed constantly and could never seem to get comfortable at home, and at her two-month immunization appointment, our world was turned upside down,” Meagan said.
Before administering Evie’s shots, one of the nurses did a physical exam and noticed something very alarming.
“From there we were told to go immediately to the nearest pediatrician,” Meagan said.
The pediatrician was also very concerned and told Evie’s family that she felt what she thought could possibly be tumors or multiple enlarged organs in Evie’s abdomen.
“She told me something was very wrong with Evie and we needed to get her to Arkansas Children’s Hospital as soon as possible,” Meagan said. “The next nine days were some of the scariest, most emotional times of our lives.”
Upon arriving at Children’s, they discovered Evie’s liver and spleen were dangerously enlarged.
“We had so many different doctors of all kinds in and out trying to figure out what was causing this,” Meagan said.
Evie was ultimately diagnosed with cytomegalovirus.
Cytomegalovirus is a common virus that can infect almost anyone. Once infected, the body retains the virus for life.
Most people don’t know they have CMV because it rarely causes problems in healthy people. For those with weakened immune systems, however, the virus has potential to cause serious problems.
Evie’s mother said that the doctor explained after Evie was diagnosed that it is a virus many people carry by the age of 21 and never know it nor suffer any symptoms of it.
“In adults it is a lot like mono and is very hard to diagnose, but in babies it causes many different long term problems and if not caught it can be deadly,” she said.
Doctors didn’t know at that time what damage the virus had done to Evie both mentally and physically.
The baby went home a couple of days later, taking an IV medication with her to treat the virus. Evie’s mother said that Evie seemed to heal and became a very happy baby after that.
“At four months old, we went to ACH for a sedated hearing exam, at the time of her birth the hospital’s machine wasn’t working,” she said.
Meagan said at that exam they learned that the cytomegalovirus had in fact caused damage to Evie’s hearing.
“As a mother, this was devastating to hear that my baby girl was basically deaf and would never recover from it but in fact it would just progressively get worse.
“We took that news in stride though and did what we had to do from then on.
“Then as she got older, it was obvious that something else was going on. She wasn’t meeting any of the milestones babies usually do, like sitting up, crawling, and pulling up.”
Over the years, the family has learned Evie’s strengths and weaknesses.
Meagan said Evie cannot feed or dress herself. She cannot hear and is nonverbal, but she has her own way of communicating with others.
“She can crawl, pull up on most things, but can only walk with some sort of assistance. She is getting stronger every day though,” Meagan said.
“Evie has gone through life so far as one of the happiest, most loving, strong willed, and resilient little girls I have ever known. She has taught herself so much, because like anyone else she strives to be as independent as she can be.”
Those who know her say Evie always wants to be in the center of what everyone else is doing and always enjoys being included in the things others are doing.
“Evie has managed to teach not only her family and I, but so many other people so much about integrity, graciousness, strength, and to love and embrace whatever you are dealt with in life,” Meagan said. “She is the perfect example of what it means to live and love.”
Evie has attended school in Hamburg since she was old enough to be in school.
She has four brothers, Jaxon, Alex, Hank and Cooper.
Janet White, one of the middle school EAST teachers, helped organize the fundraiser online and posted a story about sixth grade student Evie Simms, who is the daughter of Meagan and Jeremiah Simms.
White said Evie has classmates who love her and want to help her get a Mobile Stander, or gait trainer, to help her get around campus as well as her home. The donation jar was placed in the school office, but it was the online fundraiser that really brought in the funds.
“I started the fundraiser on Jan. 23 around 2 or 2:30 and when I checked it at 6:15 we had $2,110 already donated,” White said. The online fundraiser passed $5,000, which was the original goal, in three days. “We were all so amazed at the support of our community members and how fast they were willing to give,” White said. The fundraiser goal was readjusted to include accessories and other equipment that didn’t come standard with the Gait Trainer.
“People continued to give and we met the second goal in three days as well,” White said.
The mobile stander will make getting around easier than she currently does in her wheelchair.
White said the mobile stander will allow her to get more exercise in her muscles and give her more independence, which will build her confidence and allow her to interact with the student’s in her class, on her own, without someone else having to push her around.
“When her classmates said they wanted to do something for Evie, it was very heartwarming. Young people that want to help the members of their school family are something special,” White said.
“Her family was touched by the kindness of her fellow classmates,” White said. “We can’t wait until it comes in and we can see her try it on for the first time.”
White said that Evie’s physical trainer was working to get in contact with the person who will be measuring Evie for the device and after that they will have more information on when it will actually be in.
“We live in a small community where the economy isn’t that great, and with medical equipment being so expensive, it is hard to get the ‘extra equipment’ that will make life more comfortable for her,” White said.