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‘Teachers go above and beyond’: Richmond Fire Captain gives back to Henrico teachers who helped family

Updated: May. 7, 2021 at 6:42 PM EDT
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HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WWBT) - In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week a Richmond Fire Captain is giving back to 16 Henrico County teachers.

The 2020-2021 school year has been a challenging one for students and staff. However, for one Henrico family, one of the most gut-wrenching times in their lives turned around thanks to the help from several teachers at Henry Ward Elementary School.

While a hug may be a bit taboo in the middle of a pandemic, for 16 Henrico teachers it meant everything to be able to wrap their arms around 11-year-old Kayla Johnson-Brakett.

“It really felt great to embrace her with her being virtual and having limited opportunities to see her in person,” said Erin Ewing, Kayla’s fifth-grade teacher.

It is also a sight that fired a spark for Richmond Fire Department Captain Gregory Johnson.

“I’m glad she got to see everybody,” Gregory said.

Because for Johnson and his family, the Fall of 2020 was anything but easy.

“It was heartbreaking - it really was,” he said.

At 10 years old, Kayla was diagnosed with large B-cell lymphoma in September.

“Yes, my granddaughter; my only granddaughter,” Johnson said.

But the women at Henry Ward Elementary School made life a little easier.

“They would come knock on the door, and they would stay there for hours,” Johnson said.

“We were just trying to keep her happy and keep her spirits lifted,” Ewing said. “I know the office staff was sending her cards every week with encouraging, positive words.”

Various gifts were dropped off on a daily basis until Kayla got better because to the Henry Ward family, Kayla is more than just a student.

“We are a fairly small school, so everyone kind of knows Kayla and her big positive attitude,” Ewing said.

“She is a fighter and she never let it get her down,” Johnson said. “She kept that high spirit at all times because like I said, she had the support of the teachers, and the faculty.”

So, on this teacher appreciation week, Johnson wanted to show just that.

“We want everyone to know we are truly thankful for what you all have done,” Johnson said.

While all the teacher’s wish lists have been fulfilled, many said seeing Kayla was their gift.

“They do things that we don’t see,” Johnson said. “This was one of the things I wanted to bring to everyone’s attention. The teachers go above and beyond what’s expected of them.”

Meanwhile, Kayla has been in remission since December and is looking forward to middle school next year.

Johnson’s family also plans to make a donation to the ASK Childhood Cancer Foundation.

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