The smell of barbecued tri-tip wafted through the air as hundreds of children could be heard laughing and cheering, enjoying an extensive carnival at Gettysburg Elementary School on a pleasantly warm Friday afternoon.
But this was no ordinary carnival.
Gettysburg Elementary School families and faculty gathered together on May 6 for a purpose — to support a fellow classmate in her time of need.
Kierra Ellis, a 9-year-old third grader, was diagnosed with kidney failure two years ago when she was in the first grade. Since her diagnosis, Kierra had both of her kidneys removed; she is on the California Kidney Transplant list and needs nightly kidney dialysis treatment.
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Despite her hardships, Kierra is widely known as a kind and optimistic spirit.
“Kierra is a very sweet, wonderful child,” said Gettysburg school nurse Randi Schoneman, who has helped care for Kierra and assisted in planning the school event. “Gettysburg Generals take care of each other.”
The physical toll of kidney dialysis can make Kierra feel tired, but according to Schoneman, “[Kierra] has a lot of spunk and energy when she is awake.”
At the afternoon carnival, Gettysburg Generals were encouraged to purchase Kierra Strong T-shirts for $20 or donate directly to the Kierra Ellis Kidney Transplant Fund. Medical care for kidney failure can be costly and as the Ellis family prepares for Kierra’s upcoming transplant procedure, they hope to raise money for housing at Stanford, transportation costs and general medical expenses.
Daryl Ellis, older brother of Kierra, said that the family appreciates everything Gettysburg Elementary and the community has done to help his little sister.
“It’s really nice of them to come out today. It’s really supportive. Kierra is not here today because she isn’t feeling well, but she still appreciates it,” Daryl said.
Kierra could not participate in the ‘Kierra’s Karate Chop’ event, but her friends and karate teachers from Art of Shotokan Karate were there to demonstrate some of the karate moves Kierra has also been learning.
“Kierra started karate because it makes her feel strong. It’s something she really likes doing,” Daryl Ellis said.
The karate demonstration included students breaking wooden boards, using nun chucks and exhibiting how to wield a karate staff. Ultimately karate is just one of the many ways students have expressed how Kierra inspires them to have strength and courage in the face of adversity.
Kierra’s grandmother and guardian, Lena Martin, feels a deep sense of gratitude for the outpouring of love from Gettysburg Generals.
“I can’t believe it. Everyone is being so helpful. We are so grateful,” Martin said.
How You Can Help
Donations can be made to Gettysburg Parent Teacher Club in care of The Kierra Ellis Kidney Transplant Fund until June 10.
Donations can be made after June 10 to Comerica Bank, 5200 N. Palm Ave., Fresno 93704 in care of the Kierra Ellis Transplant Fund.
Kierra Strong T-shirts are still available for purchase. Request an order form at the Gettysburg Elementary School office, 2100 Gettysburg Ave., then fill it out with the corresponding information and payment. T-shirts range in sizes youth small to adult XL.