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Helmut Schmidt, Published October 05 2012

School rallies for boy in need of transplant

WEST FARGO – A kind word and a helping hand is great.

A kind word and a helping hand with a check can be even better.

Students at South Elementary went with the latter route Friday, giving $2,328.91 to Jordan Peterson, a Fargo 10-year-old waiting for a double-lung transplant.

The Fargo Oak Grove Lutheran Elementary fourth-grader got the rock star treatment from his West Fargo peers, as the 450-plus students filling the South gymnasium chanted Jordan’s name, slowly cranking up the volume and then clapping their hands.

“Jordan, JorDAN. JORDAN! JORDAN!” they yelled.

The chant became a roar when the guest of honor walked onto the scene with his mother, Annette Peterson.

“Well, Jordan, you’re the man!” said Principal Loren Kersting.

Jordan suffers from cystic fibrosis.

He needs a double-lung transplant, and his family will soon move to Houston to be near Texas Children’s Hospital as they wait for the organs to become available.

Because of the disease affecting his lungs, he has just 23 percent of normal lung capacity. Breathing for Jordan is like breathing through a straw, Annette Peterson told The Forum in an earlier interview.

Kersting said the students started their fundraising on Wednesday.

They sold lemonade, solicited donations door-to-door and broke into their piggy banks to help Jordan, Kersting said.

“I think these kids are great. They are absolutely great,” he said.

Jordan also received $300 from Alexa’s Hope, a charity named for Kersting’s daughter, who died eight years ago while waiting for a lung transplant.

“We want you to come back to us and show us what those brand new lungs do for you,” Kersting said. “He needs us, and we will be here for him.”

Annette Peterson said they were surprised and gratified by the reception. She said Jordan’s eyes grew wide as he approached the gym.

“He’s a little overwhelmed,” she said.

Jordan said he got “excited, real excited” when he heard the students chanting his name. He added that the fundraising was “very cool!”

Annette Peterson said a normal wait for a lung transplant is three months, with another three months of recovery time after the surgery.

The South students closed out the event by giving Jordan a standing ovation, and nearly all of them high-fived Jordan as they left to head home.

Kersting and his wife, Monica, have been advocating organ donation since Alexa’s death in 2004.

Alexa, who was 14, also needed a double-lung transplant but died before organs became available.

“I want so very much for him to get that transplant,” Kersting said.

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583