“Team Tara”: Northern Hills Middle School students rally for eighth grader with rare disease

Posted at 5:23 PM, Feb 27, 2015
and last updated 2015-02-27 17:23:29-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Northern Hills Middle School students are rallying for one of their own. After the students watched FOX 17’s report about an eighth grader fighting a rare illness, they immediately started a fundraiser this week.

“I’m good, I’m catching up in school and a little getting sick, but who isn’t?” said Tara Cleary, an eighth grader at Northern Hills Middle School.

Tara Cleary is a quick-witted eighth grader who’s fun to talk with. Her peers say she can be shy, so think about how much courage it took Tara to share what she is going through with her entire middle school.

“The girl has grit; she has a perseverance spirit I wish we could bottle up and give to some of our other students,” said Becky Telzerow, NHMS guidance counselor. “She never quits, she just keeps going. She’s a great inspiration.”

When Tara was seven-years-old, doctors diagnosed her with Fanconi Anemia; six months later she received a bone marrow transplant. Fanconi Anemia is primarily a blood disease that can lead to cancer. It is so rare that less than 1,000 Americans are being treated for it.

“Since she’s got such a serious condition that it might make her feel like she’s not alone in this, and that she’s got the entire school around her to support her,” said James Weycamp, NHMS seventh grader. “We’re there for her.”

Tara gave her school the “ok” for her classmates to watch our report about her sister raising moneyfor the Fanconi Anemia Research Fund through pledges for her upcoming Fifth Third River Bank Run 25k. Immediately after learning about this, students started a fundraiser.

At lunch, students are selling “Team Tara Fight Fanconi” hot pink bracelets and tickets for a school movie night next Friday.

And while this has put Tara in the limelight, she said it is not so much about her as it is about funding research, and one day, finding a cure.

“I think that she just wants to feel normal, and I think that’s what all of us want to be,” said Najee Braceful, NHMS eighth grader.

The students will donate all of the money raised to the Fanconi Anemia Research Fund.

To learn more about Tara, or to donate to research in her name, see the family’s GoFundMe page.