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Students Are Monkeying Around at Chesterfield School to Help An Ill Classmate

October 3, 2014

http://www.wric.com/story/26696295/students-are-monkeying-around-at-chesterfield-school-to-help-an-ill-classmate

Savanna Anchell isn't well enough to go to school each day and she can't be around germs as she's preparing for a bone marrow transplant.

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) -

 

Students at Clover Hill Elementary are going ape over their fuzzy classmate, Sam the Monkey, who sits in on Mrs. Reynold's 3rd grade class everyday in place of a student who can't be at school everyday.

Savanna Anchell isn't well enough to go to school each day and she can't be around germs as she's preparing for a bone marrow transplant.

So, Sam the monkey has been holding her seat for her. It's part of a national campaign called "Monkey in My Chair."

Kristen Reynolds, a teacher at Clover Hill, explained that Sam the Monkey is a liaison for Savannah to still be involved in the classroom e.

"It sits in her chair, takes her notes, collects work. The kids send her mail that goes in the monkey backpack and goes home to Savanna," Mrs. Reynolds said.

Each week, a different student serves as Sam the Monkey's handler.

"Before you touch her, you have to wash your hands," Clover Hill student, Ava Woodson said. "You don't want to spread germs to Savanna."

Sam ventures out all over the school, too, with the other students as a visual reminder that Savannah will soon be doing all these things with her classmates.

"The monkey goes with us to P.E. class, to music, art, computers, the library, everywhere in the building."

To let Savanna get to know them, students put together this book of their stories

"I got a book in the bag that tells me who everybody is in my class so I know when I get back," Savanna said. "Mrs. Reynolds is keeping me as part of the class."

Savanna put together a book, too, chronicling her journey battling cancer.

Savanna and her students video chat, sometimes from her hospital room, to give her friends at school a glimpse into her battle and to see what's going on back at school.

"We try to focus on the positives, but the kids know, in some of the notes they send to encourage her and build her up."

"It makes me feel happy that they know what I'm going through," Savanna says.

Savanna's mom agrees that the monkey and all the love and support from the school have been a lifeline for Savanna and her family while she's being treated for the cancer.

"For her to have a place, and to feel like she belongs... to be a part of that community," Kelly Anchell said. "It's good for her. We're just very thankful."

Savanna says that she hopes to be back in class by 2015. She has a long road to recovery ahead but she can take comfort in knowing she always has a place at the table in her classroom.

"They still know me as Savanna, not 'the girl with cancer.'"