By Jake Old
Mt. Juliet Middle School sixth grader Sarah Meers, who is battling leukemia, wished she could visit France someday.
The 12-year-old student’s dream came true Friday, when the Make-A-Wish Foundation visited the school in a special assembly in which Sarah was presented with a check of more than $5,600, raised by her fellow students.
Sarah, along with her parents and older brother, will visit Paris later this year.
The trip, along with the special assembly at the school, came as a surprise to Sarah. One of her teachers, Johnathan Wilson, led Sarah to believe she would be visiting some of her fellow students during a physical education class that is regularly scheduled during the time period.
Sarah was unable to be in school in recent weeks due to her illness, and even the scheduling of the assembly was up in the air for some time, because she was hospitalized.
Sarah and her family came into the building away from the gymnasium, where the assembly was held. Meanwhile, the gym was packed with her fellow students, who were energized with the help of some special routines by the school’s cheerleaders.
The students were urged to be quiet as Sarah approached, to ensure Sarah did not suspect anything before walking into the gym.
All eyes were focused on the doors to the gym before Sarah came in, and as the door opened, hundreds of students shouted in unison. Sarah walked a lap around the gym with her parents and a classmate and friend, Barrett, who held hands with Sarah as she walked into the gym.
“I’m so happy for her,” Barrett said outside the gym prior to the assembly. “She had to miss school because she’s sick, and I miss her.”
“I’m sorry I had to lie to you,” Wilson said to Sarah after the chaos died down a little. He smiled and leaned in to give her a hug. “We wanted it to be a surprise.”
Sarah gave him a sheepish grin and told him his apology was accepted.
The young girl was left nearly speechless in the immediate aftermath of the event.
“Yes, I was very surprised,” she said as she answered a couple of questions from the members of local media who attended the event.
Sarah’s parents, who wore grins from ear to ear throughout the event, said they were humbled by the outpouring of support and happy for their daughter.
Sarah was joined by several members of her family in seats in front of a row of bleachers in the gym. Students presented her with a book filled with notes of support from every student in the school.
“That’s just Mt. Juliet Middle School for you,” Wilson said. “That’s the character of these students.”
Students raised the money through selling Make-A-Wish Stars. School officials said they hoped to maybe raise $2,000, but students came through and more than doubled that prediction.
“We are very proud of our students … and the community for supporting Sarah,” said Ashley Putman-Serbin, student council advisor. “We are very excited to help grant her wish.”
After presenting Sarah with the check and book, students had a special chant for her.
“Dreams,” the sixth graders all said in unison.
“Come,” the seventh graders followed.
“True,” the eighth graders said.