Rare disease fundraiser grows into anti-bullying program - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Rare disease fundraiser grows into anti-bullying program

(Source: Stephanie Moreland) (Source: Stephanie Moreland)
NAYLOR, MO (KFVS) - Saturday is International Rare Disease Day.

In honor of the day, students in the Naylor R-2 school district have been collecting toys for children with abnormal conditions all through February.

The basis for the idea came from art teacher Stephanie Moreland.

At school, Moreland preaches that no two pictures are the same.

"She makes us see a different light about it, makes us see possibilities, and she makes us see the good in everything, basically," junior Nikke Bailey said.

However, that lesson of diversity took on a whole new meaning in July 2013, when Moreland gave birth to her son Luke.

Little did she know, Luke was different than most.

"He has webbed toes," Moreland said. "His fingers are webbed on one hand. His entire right side of his body is a little bit larger than his entire left side from head to toe."

Luke was diagnosed with MCM, a rare genetic disorder that causes abnormal body growth.

Moreland said there's only about 160 kids with this condition.

Luke's story is the momentum behind Naylor's efforts to raise awareness about rare conditions.

Last year the district raised $200 during February for Global Genes Awareness group.

This year, though, the toy drive has turned into a lesson of tolerance.

"My administrator said let's make this a bigger thing, let's make this more about being kind and being compassionate. Let's really try to combat bullying," Moreland said. "Like other schools districts, like every school district we have problems with bullying."

That idea turned into a campaign the school is calling the Month of Love.

Moreland clarified, though, that it's not the type of love that you would normally associate with Valentine's Day.

"One that's more kind, and more compassionate and caring and more open minded," Moreland said.

As a mother who is also a teacher, bullying is something she's already given a lot of thought to.

"Luke is different so what happens when he gets in school, and what happens when he comes home and says someone said something to me," Moreland said. "What happens when we have to deal with that?"

She's hoping these efforts will help her students and the community become more accepting of people, and understand that no two humans are alike.

"We're not the same and we should like that," Moreland said. "We should celebrate that. No body likes the same kind of music, no body likes the same kind of food, we like different things, so why is it that we are more accepting to having different styles of clothing, and different types of music and different types of food even different flavors of ice cream, but we are not more accepting of different people and we should be."

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