From Evergreen Community Charter School:
by Eleanor Ashton, development director
When Evergreen 6th grader Luca Mele landed in the hospital for brain tumor surgery, his friends, teachers and many admirers throughout Asheville, jumped right in to support him and his family, with a “Dress Like Luca Day” on the day of his surgery, April 18.
Luca, a bright, creative and outgoing 12-year-old boy, likes to dress in a variety of interesting ways, with bow ties, hats and bright colors. His Evergreen classmate, Isaac Evans, 12, came up with the idea for “Dress Like Luca Day,” to honor his positive, creative spirit.
The event also spread to Asheville Sun Soo Tae Kwon, where Luca and his family attend classes, and other places throughout the community, where friends dressed up to show their support. Since then, Luca has received a continued stream of cards, gifts and online support at Facebook/Team Luca Mele.
The outpouring of support for Luca, who has been absent from school for several weeks, may be helping Luca, who has wanted to stay in touch with his classmates, says Evergreen 6th grade math teacher, Marni Fruge.
“Evergreen is a very close community and we come together in times of celebration, in times of grief, in times of fear and in times of joy,” adds Susan Gottfried, the school’s director. “What Evergreen folks know is that we need each other and we have each other and children and adults throughout our community are taking action in various ways to show our support for Luca and his family.”
After tests confirmed a growth hormone deficiency, an MRI revealed a craniopharyngioma (a benign tumor that develops near the pituitary gland, at the base of the brain.) The family then headed to Nashville, Tennessee, where doctors at Vanderbilt University’s Children’s Hospital were able to remove the tumor, as well as his pituitary gland, through his nasal cavity, a procedure performed in only a few medical centers around the country. Luca will have some long-term effects and need hormone replacement as a result of the loss of his pituitary gland, however, his family is “optimistic that the tumor will not return and he will have an otherwise healthy and normal life,” says Tara Fleming, Luca’s mother.
“Being able to tell Luca about “Dress Like Luca Day” brought me so much joy and I have received words of love, encouragement and support from the Evergreen community,” Fleming says. “But as a parent, the greatest gift is the outpouring of love for Luca – he knows he is not alone and that he is loved and I am incredibly grateful.”
“The wave of caring and support from our school and community has been overwhelming,” says Luca’s father, Tony Mele, seventh and eighth grade social studies teacher at Evergreen. “It would have been impossible to get through this past week without the remarkable generosity and love we’ve felt.”
“I never realized how much love and support I have from my school and community,” adds Luca. “I’m so lucky to have everyone.”
Evergreen Community Charter School serves students in grades K through 8, with a focus on high academic standards, environmental education, experiential and hands-on learning, service learning, integrated arts and character development, utilizing a holistic curriculum and parents as partners.