MUSTANG — Grayson Everaard was 2 when he was diagnosed with Stage IV neuroblastoma in September 2010. It was the beginning of his battle with cancer.
Neuroblastoma is a form of cancer that starts in certain types of early nerve cells found in an embryo or fetus, and it affects children younger than 10, according to the American Cancer Society.
Grayson has faced numerous rounds of chemotherapy treatments, blood transfusions, bone scans and shots to raise his white blood cell count.
Grayson's father, Doug, is youth director of Oklahoma Youth Ministries and is involved with the youth group at the Bridge Assembly of God in Mustang. His students heard about Grayson's diagnosis and felt a need to help. Soon after, Mustang High School students stepped up to help raise money for the family.
Early in the 2010 school year, Mustang Student Council members discussed different ideas for a charity to raise money for throughout the school year. The leadership class ultimately chose to help Grayson and his family. Students felt the Everaard family was the perfect choice because Doug Everaard has had such an impact on students.
“Helping (and) reaching out has always been deep down inside me, but with this family, it was a God thing,” said Caitlyn Clark, Mustang senior class secretary. “Grayson's parents have helped mentally, as well as spiritually. I just knew this was my turn to help them.”
Starting in October, the Mustang Student Council hosted a car wash, battle of the bands, Mr. Irresistible contest and “Stop the Bop” event, all to raise money for the Everaards.
For months during lunch period, students sold “Save One, Save Gray” shirts and bracelets to help spread awareness.
The week before Valentine's Day, students brought in coins and dollar bills for the annual round of Penny Wars, a long tradition of pitting each grade against one another to raise money. Pennies earn that grade positive points, and silver coins and dollar bills earn them negative points.
At the end of the week, Student Council put on the King and Queen of Hearts assembly to showcase school talent. The two grades that received the most points from Penny Wars, proceeded to attend the assembly on Feb. 14. Students performed musical acts, dance routines and stand-up comedy.
At the end of the assembly, the Everaard family was presented with a check for $4,000. Students plan to continue raising money for the rest of the school year.
“It is an amazing feeling to know the entire school is stepping up to make a difference,” said Alecia Day, the student council sponsor. “We have made such a difference in this family's life. I never expected for the school's (students) to open up their hearts — and wallets — for this young boy in such a large manner.
“We fully exceeded my expectations. I wish we could help so many others, but I feel good that we were able to make an impact in the lives of the Everaards.”
To learn more about the Everaard family and to follow Grayson along his journey, go to www.pray4gray.com.