A display of t-shirts, hats and stickers encourage visitors “Root 4 Brianna Root” at Hippy’s Car Show/Riley Creek Fest. In the foreground, Macy Wilson and Olivia Kreisher model the shirts and accept donations for their friend Brianna and her grandmother (center back). (Photo submitted)
PANDORA - A Pandora girl is fighting acute leukemia and she is doing so with the support of an entire village. Pandora-Gilboa second-grader Brianna Root and her family are receiving help from hands pouring lemonade to feet racing to cross the 50-yard line at the Ohio State University in Columbus."Brianna Root is my backyard-neighbor," says Vanessa Wilson, coordinator of fundraising efforts for the Root family. "Honestly, I didn't even know them that well. But Brianna and my daughter are both in the second grade at school. Just knowing that another child my child's age was going through something like this, I wanted to do whatever I possibly could to try and help them out."
Three little girls, classmates of Brianna, set the ball rolling. During Pandora's 2013 community-wide garage sales, Wilson's daughter ,Macy, and two of her friends set up a lemonade stand. They served approximately $125 worth of lemonade to thirsty shoppers.
From there, Wilson says she teamed up with four other mothers, not all of whom have a second-grade student, but who still wanted to help however possible. The women started meeting once a week to brainstorm ideas.
The first move was to plant a booth at the Riley Creek Festival, a stand that sold hats, raffle tickets for a handmade quilt pieced by Brianna's grandmother, stickers and "Root 4 Brianna Root" t-shirts. This initial effort raised around $1,000.
"We all wore the t-shirts," says Wilson. "We've just done little things and everyone's just been unbelievable. It just kept blooming from there."
According to Wilson, Brianna Root is not in school yet this fall as her family is having to make frequent trips to Columbus for the little girl's treatment. The community's support is designed to assist with costly mileage and any other expenses incurred by the family during this shattering experience.
Mark Williams, the schools's art teacher, designed the t-shirts worn and sold at the festival. Those bright orange shirts are still for sale to benefit the cause.
"At school, our kick-off was at Senior Night, which was the second football game of the year," explains Williams. "We introduced the seniors, then we introduced the Root family. The girls had a powder puff football game during homecoming. The students raised $515. We created shirts and wristbands that say 'Root 4 Brianna'."
Pandora-Gilboa Athletic Director Josh Kauffman will likely wear one of the shirts as he runs the first "Finish on the 50" Ohio State University four-mile road race in Columbus on Nov. 10. A portion of the proceeds of the Ohio State Four-Miler will benefit the Urban and Shelley Meyer Fund for Cancer Research. Kauffman, one of 5,000 runners scheduled to participate in the race, has chosen to dedicate this run and its proceeds to benefit the Root family.
"This all started when our seniors wanted to include her as part of their senior night. And after I saw their love and compassion for their fellow P-G students, I vowed that I would do everything I could to support our kids and this young lady," says Kauffman. "I am also expecting my first child, who is a little girl, this December and I couldn't help but think of her and want to do something for the Root family."
Kauffman is not a seasoned runner, but has been training. He feels he will be ready and welcomes any individuals or groups who would like to sponsor the race.
But the movement to help the Root family won't stop when Kauffman crosses the finish on the 50-yard line of OSU Shoe.
"Basketball season's going to be coming up and we'll probably have a table," says Wilson. "We'll continue as long as there is a need."
Anyone who is interested in purchasing a shirt or wristband is instructed to call the Pandora-Gilboa School office at 419-384-3225.