February 20, 2014 in Washington Voices

Mt. Spokane students make blankets for pediatric cancer patients

By The Spokesman-Review
Tyler Tjomsland photoBuy this photo

Olivia Prater smiles with Lucas Morgan on Friday at Mt. Spokane High School. Lucas has Down syndrome, and in 2012 was diagnosed with leukemia. He and Olivia are collecting funds to make blankets for children going through chemotherapy.
(Full-size photo)

How to help

If you’d like to contribute money or fabric to Capes for KEMO, you can do so at Mt. Spokane High School, 6015 E. Mt. Spokane Park Drive, Mead, WA 99021.

The campaign is ongoing and the students will make the blankets themselves.

When Olivia Prater met Lucas Morgan last year at Mt. Spokane High School, it didn’t take long for the pair to form a fast friendship.

“He and I just really bonded,” said Olivia, 16. “We became best friends.”

That friendship recently spawned an idea that will soon help comfort kids undergoing chemotherapy at Providence Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital.

Lucas, 16, has Down syndrome. In 2012 he was diagnosed with leukemia. His mother, Diane Morgan, said he was in the hospital for more than six weeks. “He missed most of his freshman year.”

He often took a special blanket with him when underwent chemotherapy. “He said it was a magic blanket and it helped him feel better,” Olivia said

One day she draped the blanket around his shoulders like a cape and told him he was a superhero. That sparked an idea. Why not make blankets for other kids receiving chemo? And Capes for KEMO was born. KEMO stand for Kids on an Extraordinary Mission to Oust cancer.

“We know we can’t cure cancer,” Olivia said. “But we can help kids feel better. We can overpower it!”

Last week, Lucas beamed as he looked at Olivia. “She’s my girl!” he said. “She’s a princess!”

Indeed, Lucas invited his princess to the homecoming dance this fall in a manner benefitting royalty. He is a drummer and part of the school’s marching band. He had the percussion ensemble line up in the school’s courtyard and play a rousing cadence while he presented Olivia with flowers and asked her to the dance.

“She was excited,” he said. “I gave her a hug!”

His mom said band is his first love. “You’ve never seen anyone play the cymbals like Lucas.”

Lucas nodded. He grinned when talking about marching band. His favorite part of percussion is the “roll.” He demonstrated his skills by drumming his fingers on the table with a flourish.

Olivia is part of the dance team, so the two got to know each other better during band trips. “He cracks me up more than anyone I know,” she said.

Lucas is quite clear about his responsibilities during the many sporting events he and Olivia attend. He enumerated them. “I watch the game. I cheer. I do marching. I shake my booty.”

Apparently, he’s quite popular with the cheerleaders and joins them for the “shake your booty” cheer. “A lot of girls like me,” he said.

He still gets chemo; his mom – a nurse – said now he can have the treatments at home. His hair has thinned and he often tires easily. But he perks up when Olivia talks about the kids they want to help through Capes for KEMO.

They decorated a couple of buckets and made some posters to let the school know about the fundraising campaign. Mt. Spokane students and staff came through in a big way. Olivia said, “In one week we raised $750! We are going to make tie-blankets. They’re super easy, just cut and tie. No sewing needed.”

She’s purchased enough fabric to make 53 blankets and next week after school, the students will gather in the commons to make them. Olivia and Lucas will then deliver them to the Children’s Hospital.

The fundraising is still going on and a benefit concert is in the works. The friends want as many children as possible to feel the soft warmth of a handmade blanket around their shoulders.

Olivia’s eyes grew soft as she talked about Lucas. “He is so compassionate and so caring.”

Lucas sat close to her and clutched a stuffed monkey she’d given him for Valentine’s Day. When asked what makes his friend special, he was very clear. “She’s my girl,” he said. “She’s wonderful.”

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