Many students remember their school field trips fondly. For one Vancouver Island class, though, a trip over to the Lower Mainland this year might have been a little more special than usual.
École Phoenix Middle School in Campbell River had arranged for Grade 6/7 students in Leah Wilson’s class to meet up with classmate Jorden Andrew for the field trip to Science World in late April. Among other things, they studied the Great Bear Rainforest. It was also a bit of a belated birthday party for Andrew, as he had his birthday a couple of weeks earlier, but he has been out of class most of the year.
For much of the school year, the Grade 7 student had been in the Lower Mainland being treated for cancer. He was diagnosed within the first month of the school year and by the first week of October was in hospital in Vancouver. He went to BC Children’s Hospital to be treated for leukemia.
To make the trip possible, Gowlland Towing, an area company that tows logs, made a donation toward the ferry trip over to the Lower Mainland. Wilson, who lives in Comox Valley but works in Campbell River, knew people were becoming aware of Andrew and his lengthy treatment out of town.
“We were trying to figure out how we can go over and visit him,” she said.
Wilson, her teaching partner, their education assistant and the school’s Aboriginal support worker did go see him in November, both as a social visit and to bring him a laptop, clothes and other necessities.
“He was minus some of those things, and we wanted to keep connected to him,” she said.
The kids in the classroom also kept in touch with him through the year. As he started to feel a little better, he began conversing more with everyone. Though he was making friends during his treatment, it was not the same as staying in touch with old friends from school.
“He was missing us,” Wilson said, “and he was reaching out.”
She pitched coming over for another visit, joking she and the others were coming to “kidnap” him and he was open to the idea. Then, she started thinking he would probably rather visit his friends than “four middle-aged women.”
She approached the others and mentioned the idea of having the class visit Science World with Jorden.
One challenge was the timing because they had to coordinate the visit with his chemotherapy. Another was cost – especially for the ferry. They did some fundraising but would not have enough for the size of the group. There would usually be 22 students, including Jorden in Wilson’s class, and 24 in the other part of the class.
“We just didn’t have enough and I didn’t want to charge my students that much money to get over,” she said.
This is where Gowlland Towing came in, offering to help the class with the cost for the 37 students that ended up making the trip.
“They were so generous and so quick to say ‘Absolutely,’” Wilson says.
She then started making arrangement and held off telling the other students about what was going to happen, but eventually word got out.
“They were so excited that we were doing this because this was not a planned field trip this year,” she said.