"The campaign was a huge success. Students all over the district rallied around Olivia's cause. Civic groups and individuals from the community also donated. It really was a team effort and a blessing to be part of," said Jamie Evans.
The Edison High School teacher and coach's comments came on the heels of a districtwide effort organized in December after visually impaired 6-year-old Olivia Ault was the highest vote-getter in an online competition among six families across the country hoping to win Lily LightAide, described as a "fun and bright learning tool for children who are blind or visually impaired."
The Backpacking LightAide Program welcomed daily votes from Dec. 9-15 at wonderbaby.org after each family had a chance to experience for a two-week period the portable assistive device that displays 224 bright and multi-colored LED lights to visually stimulate and encourage learning.
In this contributed picture, some Edison students have a photo opp with Olivia Ault, sixth from left, in between her parents, Tom and Anna Ault.
Olivia, the 6-year-old daughter of Tom and Anna Ault of East Springfield, is an Edison Local pupil who attends Hills Elementary in Mingo Junction, where the visually impaired unit is located. She has cortical visual impairment due to a stroke that she suffered before birth. She had severe brain damage from the stroke which caused developmental and cognitive delays along with visual impairment.
Local support for Olivia came from her own school district, which in turn launched an effort the week of Dec. 16 to help the other families who were in contention for the device.
Olivia and her parents were invited to the high school "to meet some of the students who pulled so hard for her," and the "Help Everyone SEE Our Spirit Week" coordinated by Evans was kicked off.
The Edison students worked to raise money in hopes of securing a LightAide for every family in the contest. "The Perkins school and the manufacturer have cut the cost ($999 each) in half, so if we raise $2,800, we could give a LightAide to all of the kids," Evans had said, noting at the time that one family's community already had purchased one.
Evans said as Edison students became more aware of Olivia's condition and the conditions of the other competitors, "they questioned that all of these families needed this technology. I agreed, and the idea was born."
The week included students at Edison High School raising money through a Tuesday Santa Hat Day, Wednesday's Bad Christmas Sweater Day and Throwback Thursday when students dressed from a different decade. Pictures of all the activities were to be on Edison Local Schools' Facebook page, according to Evans.
At John Gregg and Stanton, that Tuesday was PJ Day, Wednesday was Crazy Socks Days and on Thursday it was Santa Hat Day.
In the end, $3,200 was raised, according to Evans.
"We are going to distribute the $3,200 we raised to three of the five families left in the contest," Evans said. "Two families also raised the money that they need, and even the three that we are helping raised enough to buy the actual LightAide. We are buying them accessories. We will be sending a donation of $80 to the Fischer family in Wheat Ridge, Colo., to cover their final accessories and shipping costs. We are sending donations of $300 each to the Kellar family of Orem, Utah, and the Perkins family of Pearland, Texas, to cover their remaining accessories and shipping," Evans explained.
"We also will be giving $300 to Olivia for her accessories and shipping costs, as Phillips only donated the actual LightAide to the contest," he continued. "That leaves us with $2,229. With that amount, we plan to donate $1,500 to the Easter Seals in Wheeling to buy them a LightAide, which will help them service all of the kids in the Upper Ohio Valley who suffer from CVI and other visual impairments," he said. "The final $729 will be donated to Abigail's Angels, a local charity that supports another Edison pupil who has a severe vision impairment," he said of 9-year-old Abigail Kinney, Olivia's cousin.
The Edison effort impressed Evans.
"It was amazing to experience the push for Olivia to win the LightAide in the online contest, but it was even more amazing to see the students and communities pull together to help provide for each of these families," Evans said.
"It really makes you proud to see kids stepping outside their own world and working to help others. Our school has such a big heart. We donate thousands of dollars a year to various different causes and charities around the area, but this was different. This time the students stepped out and saw a need, supported one of their own, and then decided that it wasn't enough, that they wanted to do more. It was very special," Evans said.