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Students unite to support a classmate

The first time Grayson Barry went through cancer treatment, his family was new to Farmington. They didn’t know anybody, they were far from family and they were scared.

Grayson probably doesn’t remember much about that. He was just 7 months old when his brain stem tumor was discovered. But his mother remembers, and that’s why the support Grayson got last week meant so much.

Grayson went through 14 months of chemotherapy treatment starting when he was 1 year old for a tumor in his brain stem. His cancer was in remission for three years after that, but his family got word just two weeks before the start of school this year that it was growing again.

“For us, (the original diagnosis) was just devastating,” Jessica Barry said. “It was just extremely hard. At that time, my husband was still in the military, so he would be gone for drill and stuff like that.

The family didn’t even know their neighbors their first time through treatment, and between time spent in the hospital and Grayson’s weakened immune system forcing him to stay indoors most of the time there wasn’t much opportunity to meet anyone.

Things are different this time around. The show of support started with Katie Landers, who has Grayson and twin sister Emma in her kindergarten class at Farmington Elementary School. She had the idea to have her students wear gold in Grayson’s honor. September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and gold is the cause’s color.

The idea was small at first, but then, Landers talked to FES principal Ben Januschka and counselor Jen Venz about the idea, and the idea started to grow. It spread to the rest of FES, and eventually to Meadowview Elementary.

And so, on Sept. 23, the day before Grayson was supposed to start his second round of cancer treatment, students and staff at two schools showed up dressed in gold.

“It was just amazing,” Landers said. “I did not realize what an impact it would make. When Jen Venz came to my classroom, she got stuffed animals for Grayson and Emma to be from the class. He just got a big smile on his face.”

Grayson and Emma have three other siblings at FES, so as the show of support grew, they also got to see how many people were behind their family.

That made a big impact on Jessica Barry. She knows the challenges that await her son and the rest of the family, and she was touched by the outpouring of support she saw last week.

“It’s overwhelming, but in a good way, knowing we have so much support this time,” Barry said. “Last time we really didn’t. We didn’t know anybody. We feel like we have so much love and support. We’re not as scared for him this time.”

That’s important, because Grayson has a long road ahead. He got a port put into his chest last Thursday and started chemotherapy the same day. He’ll have to visit the hospital every week for the next year.

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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