Bonham Jr. High Reaches Out to Help Student

by Victor Lopez
NewsWest 9

ODESSA - Bills are piling up for a student who suffers from a rare medical condition.

Students and teachers decorated the Bonham Jr. High gym for a play night, to cap off weeks of fund raising activities.

"This is all their ideas, their feedback, their thoughts and it's been really positive.  It's been great," said school nurse, Kristin Groves.

All the money raised will go to help with medical expenses for 14-year-old Bethany Lewallen, who suffers from a condition known as MELAS, a genetic disorder that deprives the body's cells of oxygen, leading to seizures and stroke like symptoms.  Right now, there is no cure.

"It's kind of been something we feel we can help her with. She's on rehab and therapy all the time, so we know that she needs those things.  She needs those things to continue walking, to continue functioning as a normal child.  She is normal.  To her, she has no illness," explained Groves.

School officials have known about Bethany's condition since last year. Everyone that knows her, says the same thing, she's bright, active and just fun to be around. This year, she took a turn for the worse.

"She's homebound. Our students wanted to let her know they're not going to forget her. They want her back as soon as possible and they are doing what they can to help her and her family through this very tough time," said Bonham Principal James Ramage.

Autumn and Brittany Roberts have known Bethany since the second grade. They say she's very popular. Both are still in shock after hearing about her condition.

"I almost started to cry. I was like, she's one of my great friends. She can't be sick," said Amber.

"She just walks around and usually you see people caring for her. It's just hard to see her that way," twin sister Brittany added.

According to Groves, their goal is to raise $5,000. As of Friday morning, the pot was at $3,800, "We're a little bit shy, but we still have t-shirts to sell, the play night tonight. We'll meet our goal, $5,000."

Bethany's name has been on everybody's lips all week. As Principal James Ramage says, it's all about her, "The bracelets that we wear, that say Bonham loves Bethany, it's all about what can Bonham do for one of our own. What can Bonham do for Bethany?"

The Lewallen family has been in Houston this week. They've been at Texas Children's Hospital, meeting with a geneticist and MELAS specialist to discuss Bethany's condition.