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Lowry Elementary rallies around kindergartner

Special correspondent
Published:   |   Updated: April 17, 2013 at 04:40 PM
TAMPA -

Jake Getty is battling leukemia one penny at a time.

Jake is a kindergartner at Lowry Elementary School and he is the driving force behind a Pasta for Pennies program that's sponsored by Olive Garden. Proceeds will go to All Children's Hospital, where Jake gets treatment for his disease.

Jake's mom, Angela, said his leukemia is in remission, but even at his young age, he wants to help other kids with the same problems. Others students at Lowry have joined in and the school has been raising funds so far with different events and boxes throughout the school for people to drop off any extra pennies. Of course, other coins are also accepted.

“He can play like a lot of other kids,'' Angela said. “But he can't bump into other kids. There are times he can't always participate, but he is getting used to it.''

Jake has to wash his hands more than most kids his age and has to go to the hospital whenever the hint of a fever appears. But Jake, who is a little shy but makes up for it with an awesome smile, takes it in stride.

The Pasta for Pennies campaign started when Jake began collecting pennies and the whole school started to add to the collection. The campaign hit close to home for third-grader Aanya Bastian.

“My dad had stage-four lymphoma,” Aanya said. “When I saw a box that said Pennies for Pasta and saw what it was about, I wanted to help so Jake could have help.''

Aanya even started a lemonade stand, with proceeds going to the hospital.

A family member helped fifth-grader Megan Pelletier add to the funds.

“I got $200 from one of my dad's cousins,'' Megan said. “They were all pennies. I feel bad for people who are sick. We need to help out.''

Angela and Jake's dad, Matthew, a lieutenant colonel at MacDill Air Force Base, have been active in Jake's treatment. Angela said Jake was taken to the hospital and, two days after his fourth birthday, he was diagnosed with leukemia. The quick treatments worked, and 28 days after he went into the hospital, he was in remission.

Angela said Jake will have to get treatment for three years. During that time, Jake will have his red and white blood cells monitored.

“Our life is run by that number,'' Angela said. “Fortunately, Jake is at the perfect age where he understands something is not right, but he never worries.''

Angela said if a child with Jake's issues is cancer free for three to five years, he is considered “normal.” He can't be exposed to the flu or any other illnesses, but he's holding up with the support of an entire school.

“He's like a rock star around here,'' Angela said. “Even when he doesn't feel good, he wants to go to school. The teachers and staff and the kids have been so great with him. Even when he doesn't feel good, he wants to buck it up and get to school.'' 

What's next for Jake and the kids who are helping at Lowry? Megan said that once they run out of pennies they might have to go back to Olive Garden with a new campaign.

Megan's plan: “How about Noodles for Nickels?”

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