Kirkwood Elementary holds week-long fundraiser for two-year-old boy fighting rare cancer


TOPPENISH, Wash. -- Last week KIMA shared the story of two-year-old Tiago Viernes, a boy from Wapato who’s fighting cancer at Seattle Children's Hospital.

A coffee business in Toppenish raised funds for the family over the weekend, but Tiago's story touched even young kids at an elementary school.

What began as a fundraiser for little Tiago at Karlee's Koffee quickly spread to Kirkwood Elementary School - a partnership students couldn't be happier about.

"It has been so wonderful teaching the children compassion and empathy and just a service-learning project that they can give back to their communities,” said principal Dawn Weddle.

The second day of a week-long fundraiser, Tuesday's theme was superheroes, as Tiago fights on. Gold T-shirts also relayed a similar message, ‘Going Gold for Tiago,’ while handmade paper chains lined the halls in his honor.

"We're selling stuff for him, we're going to have a care package,” said student Jessica Wesley.

A donation box was filled with coloring books, stuffed animals, and other toys to lift Tiago's spirits and let him know he's not alone.

"They're in the hospital most of the time getting medicine, getting treatment, surgery; it's hard for the family, very hard for them,” said student Kayla Garcia.

But a little friendly competition this week aims to "change" all that.

"Each classroom is competing to raise the most amount of change in a gold jug for him and the winning class will get an ice cream party from Karlee's Koffee,” said shop co-owner Nettie Dionne.

And there was no shortage of more creativity among Kirkwood's leadership group.

"I had the idea for making bracelets; it says 'Tiago Strong,’ said student Eduardo Ortega-Chavez.

The bracelets say it all.

Tiago is battling stage four neuroblastoma, a very rare form of cancer with less than 20,000 cases in the U.S.

"If a child has cancer or another illness, they're just like [other kids] but they just have other hardship they have to overcome, and our kids are really learning that,” said principal Weddle.

A powerful message Kirkwood's students embraced: to fight and stay strong.

The school's fundraiser concludes Friday, Sept. 30 with a special assembly where a check will be issued for the Viernes family.

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