LEWISTON – Third-grader Machaela Larame helped bake and sell seven batches of cookies, raising $161.

Third-graders staged a spaghetti supper.

First-grader McKale Smart donated an afghan that his grandmother gave him last year when he was in a coma. McKale figured if it helped him, it would help Ethan Lussier.

The 7-year-old has a brain tumor that’s left him nearly blind.

Since April, all of the students at McMahon Elementary School, where Ethan is a first-grader, have helped raise money through coin drives, bake sales and paper doll novelties.

They raised nearly $15,000.

On Thursday, they presented the money to Ethan and his parents, Vicki Saunders and Clint Lussier.

The donations will help tremendously, Saunders said. She couldn’t keep up with her job and care for Ethan, and the family now lives on one income.

‘Unbelievable’

Much of the generosity has come from students, Principal Althea Walker said. They’ve taken money out of their piggy banks or handed over birthday money.

As word about Ethan drifted into the community, someone who saw a poster about fundraising efforts went home and wrote a check for $1,000.

“It’s just unbelievable,” Walker said.

Ethan’s symptoms appeared in September, when his teacher noticed changes in the boy, such as difficulty hearing.

Then he began to lose his vision.

“He was reading a book to his teacher,” his mother recalled. “He started crying. She said, ‘What’s the matter?’ He said, ‘The words are blurry. I can’t see them.’ “

Tests revealed Ethan had a brain tumor that was causing the hearing and vision losses. Doctors eventually determined Ethan had both a brain-stem tumor and a cyst.

Since last fall he’s undergone four surgeries in Boston. Two were craniotomies, complex operations that lasted between eight and 12 hours. The second craniotomy was done in April after tests revealed the cyst that had been removed had come back, and was three times the size, Saunders said.

Doctors again removed the cyst and 70 percent of the tumor, she said. Because of its proximity to the brain, they can’t remove all of the tumor. Doctors may try to reduce it with chemotherapy.

“We don’t know if his vision will be restored,” his mother said. He can see images if they’re close enough and large enough.

Ethan is still an active boy who enjoys splashing in his backyard pool, swinging or driving his Power Wheel, Saunders said.

He’s quick to talk about his Power Wheel. “It’s a black Silverado.” He’s also quick to rattle off makes and engine sizes of cars.

He says he’s angry about his brain tumor. “It makes me feel like I’m going to give myself a knuckle sandwich right on the brain.”

But he appreciates the help he’s getting from the school and the community.

“I think it’s nice,” he said. “It makes me feel better.”

When Ethan was hospitalized in Boston earlier in the school year, his classmates sent cards. “He would call on the phone and everybody would say hi. He’d tell us how he was doing,” Ethan’s teacher, Teri Latlippe, said.

Since he’s lost his vision, he gets help finding his way around class, the bus and playground. During show-and-tell time, classmates let Ethan feel what they’ve brought.

“Everybody’s been helping,” Latlippe said. “Ethan’s thrived on that.”

His mother agreed, saying the family has received much support from the McMahon community.

Even before the spring fundraising began, “the kids were just willing to step up to the plate and help him,” she said. “They’ve been wonderful.”

Walker and teachers have often intervened to help, even calling Ethan’s doctors.

When you know people are cheering you on, it helps, Saunders said.

“Like Mrs. Walker says, ‘Only positive energy. That’s what we need,’ ” Saunders said.

As his mother shared their story, Ethan took a turn talking.

“Mommy,” he said. “I love you.”

“I love you,” she said.

‘Friends of Ethan’ raise nearly $15,000

• One class made and sold “Friends of Ethan” paper dolls for $1. They sold 1,300 of them.

• Third-graders held a spaghetti supper.

• Third-grader Machaela Larame sold cookies at her mother’s garage sale.

• First-graders held a coin drive.

• Fourth-graders held a bake sale during the annual book fair.

• Sixth-graders held a garage sale.


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