'Change for Caleb' a success

When the students at the Florence Rideout Elementary School in Wilton take on a project, they do so wholeheartedly.

Last week, they set out to raise money for Caleb Berkebile, the eighth-grade brother of their classmate, third-grader Hunter Berkebile. Caleb was diagnosed last fall with leukemia and must make weekly trips to Lebanon for treatment. His mother, Ressie, has had to quit her job, causing financial hardships.

“We called it ‘Change for Caleb,’ ” School Nurse Diana Zolteo said. “We sent home a flier asking parents to look for loose change – under the sofa cushions, in cubbyholes in the car.”

The four-day effort ended with a total collection of $1,211 in change and checks, plus $60 in gas cards, which had also been suggested. The change alone added up to $593.31, Zolteo said.

Ressie Berkebile said she was “amazed” by the response.

“It was a great help,” she said, particularly the gas cards to help with the trips for treatment. “Without being able to work, this help is a blessing, particularly gas cards and food cards. The kids did a great job. My husband and I are still amazed at how good people are.”

Caleb “is doing pretty good,” she said. “He is starting to have an appetite and is regaining a little weight. He is keeping his sense of humor. (His classmates) e-mailing him every day helps.”