BLOOMINGTON Katie Kiper may be too ill to attend school these days, but the thoughts of students and teachers are with her.
One of her friends at Bloomington High School, Alexis Adams, got the cameras rolling Friday to create a video scrapbook for Katie, who has been battling cancer for a year. The sophomore will be able to see the greetings from her friends after she recovers from surgery, which is set for today.
The surgery at St. John's Hospital in Springfield includes amputation of her left arm and part of her shoulder, Katie's mother, Janice Kiper, said Friday.
Students and teachers are also collecting money, grocery gift cards and gas cards to help with the transportation costs. They have collected $3,700 so far, said Bloomington High School Principal Cindy Helmers.
"There has been so much support for her," Helmers said.
The family's van is old, and Janice Kiper and her boyfriend, William Walden, are putting money donated toward having a safe vehicle in which to drive Katie on trips to Springfield.
The 15-year-old may require radiation afterward, which would mean two to six weeks of trips to Springfield. She also will need rehabilitation to learn new skills to function after the surgery, her mother said.
"She wants to be at school and with her friends," Helmers said, so Katie's friends are keeping connected with her as she recovers.
"The cards and letters students sent from the school really cheered her up," Janice Kiper said.
Katie has tried very hard to go to school and keep up with her work through her illness, her mother said. Katie was in school only about one month this year.
She became sick during exam time last year and then started chemotherapy. She has had biopsies and tests, but this is the first major surgery, her mother said.
Before she got sick, Katie loved music and dancing. "She did cartwheels through the house," Janice Kiper said. As the illness dragged on, Katie has become quieter.
"She can still make friends anywhere," her mother said. "I think the people at Bloomington High School, the teachers and the kids have just been wonderful."
Friends and family also have been doing what they can to help.
Carol Whitwood led an effort to get a computer for Katie so she can keep up with schoolwork and friends during recovery, her mother said. Best Buy donated the computer and the system requirements, Janice Kiper said, adding that the family is very thankful for the gift.
An account in Katie's name has been established at the Illinois State University credit union.
The Pantagraph/B Mosher
Bloomington High School student Melissa Hendricks, 15, far left, gets a hug from BHS drama teacher Susan Cortesi, middle, as student Ally Adams, 16, far right, looks on while they talk about Katie Kiper. Kiper, who has cancer, is having surgery today. Hendricks, Cortesi, and Adams have raised money to help Kiper's family.