The 7-year-old was diagnosed in utero with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a condition that affects normal blood flow through the heart, resulting in the left side of the heart not forming correctly.
Students at a South Carolina elementary school are channeling their creativity towards helping a friend in need. Lamere Johnson, a first-grade student at Johnston Elementary, is currently awaiting a heart transplant after he was diagnosed in utero with hypoplastic left heart syndrome — a condition that affects normal blood flow through the heart, resulting in the left side of the heart not forming correctly. Speaking to Good Morning America, his mother, Contessa Culbreath, revealed that Lamere has had three open-heart surgeries so far and that doctors now say he will need a new heart.
"It can be today, next year, next week, or next month," Culbreath said. "Lamere has been excited since he found out he's going to get a new heart. Me as his mom, I cry, I'm upset. He said, 'Mom, I'm going to get a new heart so I can play football.'" She said that doctors cleared the 7-year-old to attend school via hybrid learning and thus goes to class wearing a backpack containing an IV that helps keep his heart valves open. Recently, Lamere's classmates learned that their friend was on a transplant list. Makinzie Corley, a pre-K assistant at Johnston Elementary School, helped the students launch a special project to raise money for the youngster's transplant.
"We wanted to get our kids involved and, at the same time, give back to Lamere and his family because they're so precious to us," Corley said. "As a community and as a school, we want to make sure that this family is prepared for when the doctor calls and says, 'Hey, we've got a heart for him.'" Every day, Corley cuts around 200 to 400 paper hearts, which fifth graders then bring around the school each morning for anyone interested in buying a heart for Lamere.
Whoever donates to the young boy's cause will have their name written on a heart. The school's hallways — starting from Lamere's classroom door down to the fifth-grade classroom —are currently wrapped in the hearts. Each heart costs $1, and all the proceeds from the sales go directly into Lamere's account at the Children's Organ Transplant Association. The money raised will go toward food, travel, and any other expenses needed for when Lamere finally receives a new heart. So far, the school has collected about $2000 towards the cause, and the local middle and high schools are also contributing to help raise more money.
"Lamere, he is truly a blessing to everybody he meets," Corley said. "He's spunky, and he just loves life. I can't even explain his spirit. He loves coming to school." Lamere's story recently gained attention outside the local community after the school posted on Facebook about the students' initiative to raise money for his heart transplant. "As part of our Leader in Me process at JES, we often participate in service projects. We have selected to honor one of our own starting this month. Each month we will be selling paper mementos for $1 to donate to Lamere Johnson's fundraising account through COTA (Children’s Organ Transplant Organization) as he awaits a heart transplant," the school wrote.
"Lamere is a first-grade student here at JES! Just a little about him---He loves coming to school to learn and to be with his friends! He loves all things sports! His favorite foods are chicken and pizza, and he loves watching YouTube and making videos on his phone," the post revealed. "We will be selling paper hearts this month, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to his family through his COTA account. His family thanks you for your support!" You can also donate towards Lamere's cause here.