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Churchill 4th graders turn school project into fundraiser

Two Churchill School fourth graders took a school project and turned it into a fundraiser for a nonprofit organization. Together the classmates raised more than $2,000.

On Saturday, March 20, Ian Arseneau, 9, and Elijah “Eli” Olison, 10, sold yellow wristbands reading JoyStrong in honor of three-year-old Joy Arseneau, Ian’s sister, who is being treated for leukemia. 

Churchill School teacher Elissa Hastings congratulates her students Ian Arseneau, left, and Eli Olison on their work raising $2,000 for a nonprofit. (Provided photo)

The little girl, daughter of Nikki and Jordan Arseneau of Homewood, had a fever in November, and after five days, “her pediatrician ordered bloodwork that showed Joy had about 23 percent of her blood covered with leukemia cells,” said Nikki. 

Joy was in Comer Children’s Hospital for a week of intensive treatments. She will continue to receive treatments until she’s five years old. Her next treatment is this month.


Teacher Elissa Hastings said she is proud of her students who learned the lessons she was trying to impart through the Leadership and Service class. Churchill School third, fourth and fifth graders met for the class once a week from September through February.

Hastings said she wanted to let her class know “that it doesn’t matter how old they are, they can make a difference in the world. I think a lot of times students around their age think they have to do these big, extravagant things that make such a huge difference, and we talk about just bringing in a garbage can for a neighbor, and raking and shoveling and bringing groceries in.”

Doing a project as part of the class was a voluntary act, and Hastings said the Arseneau family worked with Ian and Eli on how to design the project and what organization would be a beneficiary.

Ian wanted to help Christmas Without Cancer, a nonprofit organization that works with families at the holidays who are dealing with childhood cancer. The Arseneau family received the support from the organization in 2020 after a neighbor told Nikki about their work and she applied for assistance. 

“We didn’t have to think about anything. They provided everything that we needed. We had Christmas at home and the whole neighborhood brought us gifts that we had on our wish list, and Joy’s list. It was amazing,” she said.

Jordan, Ian’s dad, said the fundraiser “was a project completely inspired by his teachers at Churchill, Ms. Hastings and the Leadership and Service class. I think it’s really cool that they encourage kids to think about others.”

Hastings said other class projects were cards for essential workers, and preparing goodie bags for children at Lurie Children’s Hospital.

“The whole goal was to encourage the students to think outside of themselves and know they can help others,” Hastings said.

Donations are still being accepted at a GoFundMe account established for the Arseneaus at Count It All Joy. Donations will help cover some of Joy’s medical costs and be split with Christmas Without Cancer. 

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