Fourth-grader Nathan Saunders hadn't been to Elmer Wolfe Elementary School since his cancer diagnosis in November. When he visited the Union Bridge elementary school Thursday, his classmates welcomed him by playing his favorite sport – basketball.
"I was happy to see my friends," Nathan said.
Elmer Wolfe hosted "Hoops for Hopkins" Thursday to raise money for the Johns Hopkins Children's Center.
Nathan has been treated at the hospital since November, including daily and weekly radiation and chemotherapy treatments.
He has been diagnosed with Wilms Tumor, a cancer that attacks the kidneys, according to his mother, Katie Johannes.
Johannes, a fourth-grade teacher at Elmer Wolfe, said Nathan is doing well physically and the doctors have given him a positive prognosis. She acknowledged, though, that it has been an emotionally a tough time.
"It's been hard for him to adjust," she said.
Nathan said he's "feeling good" and that the efforts of his classmates to support John Hopkins are "really kind."
Johannes said efforts by the school to support her family and Nathan since his diagnosis have been "very humbling."
"For such a small school, this community has a huge heart," she said. "I am so grateful."
The plan for "Hoops for Hopkins" was for the school's PTO to donate three cents for every basket made Thursday. Students also were to collect pledges and donations outside of school from their families, neighbors, and community members.
Through the efforts of students and local businesses, Elmer Wolfe had already raised more than $7,000 before students even started shooting baskets Thursday.
"It's just amazing what they've done," school counselor Barbara Deitch said.
In addition to the PTO's donations, local businesses, such as Lehigh Cement and Stambaugh's, are donating a certain amount per made basket.
After Thursday's event, the school has raised more than $11,000, according to Deitch.
Deitch said the expectation was to raise between $1,000 to $2,000.
"It's just incredible," she said of how much has been raised.
The funds raised by students will be used to purchase a variety of games and toys to help children pass the time while waiting for their treatments, and to make their treatments a bit easier to handle.
Deitch said the school has been in contact with Johns Hopkins to see what else the money can be used for in addition to games for children.
All money raised was being donated during the annual Children's Center radiothon on Thursday.
Since Nathan has been out of school for so long, one of his best friends, Kaleb Robinson, was eager to see his basketball buddy.
"It's pretty cool seeing him since he's been in the hospital for a long time," Kaleb said. Kaleb said he "freaked out" when he learned Nathan had cancer.
"I thought that he wouldn't really be coming back to the school," he said.
Fifth-grader Logan Hudson didn't know Nathan before the school launched its fundraiser for Hopkins, although he did have Johannes as a teacher last year.
With the help of his grandparents' motorcycle club, Toop's Troops, Logan raised about $900 for the children's center.
"It feels good because I'm helping Nathan and all the other kids," he said.