Lehigh Valley

Elementary school students take swing at doing something special for their friend

The picture says it all. "Steckel loves Alice."

Steckel is Steckel Elementary, and Alice is second-grade student Alice Eilan.

Alice is in a wheelchair after a traumatic brain injury, but she is always smiling. She races the staff through the halls of the school and lights up the room while making gingerbread houses.

When it comes to recess, classmates say they make sure Alice has fun on the playground, but they wanted more for their friend.

"Dear Mrs. Snyder, we just wanted to have some free time for Alice to swing. Because it's not really fair because if we swing she isn't able to swing," student Danica Kulp wrote in a letter.

The students used a writing assignment to advocate for Alice.

"I was not expecting the letters I received. They were super detailed, and they had a plan in how they were going to persuade me," said Steckel Elementary Principal Cora Snyder.

After more research, and a week after Alice's birthday, students held a surprise gathering for their friend, with Alice's smile shining brighter than the sunny day.

"We have to make this happen. Kids are the driving force," Snyder said.

There is a new swing at Steckel, a swing just for Alice. The students and decorations were decked out in pink, Alice's favorite color.

Once the ribbon was cut, Alice took a seat in the swing of honor. Her big brother, and fellow Steckel student, Elias, gave her a push.

The family didn't know about the swing until the school sent an email to her mother.

"Oh my God. It's incredible, amazing," said Shams Eilan, Alice's mother. "I was speechless. My feelings were just priceless because we were thinking about it for a long time."

The motto for students at Steckel Elementary is, rise above what we expect. These students not only rose above expectations, they helped one of their own with a great big smile soar to new heights.

"Just seeing that smile is worth a million dollars and I think if that didn't make you smile, then I really don't know what can," Snyder said.

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