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Hillyard Class Adopts Family of Mother With Rare Illness

Students and teachers pitched in to give these children a Christmas they won't soon forget.
(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) Not every kid gets to open presents a week before Christmas - but Terrence and Tevion Rhodes did it with an audience.

They're getting everything a seven year old and his five year old brother could want.

There are a lot of superhero-themed gifts, just in the few they opened today.

Students in the medical transcriptions class at Hillyard Technical Center watch as Terrence and Tevion open the presents they bought them.

"Everybody went out and go what they could, even the little things from the candy in the stockings to the monster truck toys and coloring books.  We wanted to make a difference.  We got puzzles for the mom; we got her makeup," said Janelle Knorr, 17, one of the girls in the class who came up with the idea to adopt the boys and their mother for Christmas.

Their mom is Amy Becker, a former student in the class, who was recently diagnosed with cystic fibrosis.

It's an infection of her lungs that attacks her immune system and makes her weak.

The illness is genetic.

"So Amy has always had it; she was born with it," said Dr. Colleen Becker, Amy's mother.  "But she was always treated symptomatically.   Now the true symptoms are coming out.  At Thanksgiving time she was in the hospital for two weeks."

Knorr said she wasn't surprised to see nearly fifty people - students from both morning and afternoon transcriptions classes plus some teachers - pitch into the effort.

"It's just really heartbreaking to hear that someone so young is going through that.  We wanted to make a difference in her life," she said.

Even though most of these students don't know her, they all wanted to take care of their own, to give this family a Christmas they'll never forget.

"Mrs. Hodge asked me to just give them a wish list," Dr. Becker said.  "I gave them a few things, maybe 10 or 15 things.  I just said to pick from the list - I never knew they'd get everything on the list.  To go above and beyond what they did - there are no words."

Not every present is opened; just a few.

The rest are for Christmas day, when the boys can share them with their mother.

"She will be overjoyed," Dr. Becker said.  She was in tears when I told her the class wanted to adopt her.  Her feelings from this, she'll just be totally overwhelmed."

Amy will have to go through treatments for the rest of her life.

Her mother says she was too weak to meet the students at the school, but she is expected to get better than she has been since her diagnosis.

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