STACYVILLE, Maine — As a classmate recovers in Boston from a serious accident, students at Katahdin Elementary School are trying to cheer her up from afar and have pledged to continue their efforts through the summer.
Allison Botting, 11, of Stacyville, a fifth-grader at the school, her sister Ashley Paradis, 18, and their mother’s boyfriend, Terry Holland, were injured on June 2 after a thunderstorm knocked down a tree onto a power line at their 913 Station Road home. The tree caught fire from the sparking wire, and the trio went outside to watch it burn when it fell to the ground, dragging the power line down with it. The line fell on top of Botting and Paradis, striking the backs of their legs.
Holland broke his arm and dislocated his shoulder when he was thrown across the yard after touching the power line to try to get it off Botting. Paradis suffered blisters and burns on her legs and feet and was treated, along with Holland, at Houlton Regional Hospital.
Botting was the most severely injured, suffering second- and third-degree burns to her legs. She remains at Shriners Hospital in Boston, where she has been since shortly after the accident.
Christine Cunningham, the principal of Katahdin Elementary School, said Tuesday that Botting’s classmates are working hard to keep Botting’s spirits up.
“Right after the accident, like kids do, they wanted to do whatever they could to help,” Cunningham said. “The day after Allison was injured, they started making cards, and they filled a basket with things they thought she would enjoy.”
The principal described the fifth-grader as a quiet child and an avid reader who has blossomed in school this year.
“When she says something, everyone listens,” she added.
School officials have been communicating with the family, said Cunningham, and they have been diligent about quashing rumors and giving students only the facts about the accident and their classmates’ care.
Among the items sent to Botting was a video made by her classmates, according to Cunningham.
“They took turns saying hello to her, and they told her that they are thinking of her and want her to get better soon,” Cunningham said. “They also did little skits and said funny things. Others have been communicating with her via the Internet.”
Cunningham added that the school also has offered students the chance to take home “Kindness Kits” in order to communicate with the 11-year-old over the summer. The kits contain cards, envelopes and stamps, so that students can write to Botting during vacation.
“A lot of the students have picked up a kit,” she said. “They know that if they pick it up, they are committed to writing to Allison at least once a week.”
Betty Campbell, the great-grandmother of Botting and Paradis, said Tuesday that the family got a brief reprieve from the heartache they have felt over the past few weeks when Paradis graduated from Katahdin High School on Saturday.
“It was wonderful,” she said. “Ashley had a very nice graduation. There were a lot of people there, and I think there were a lot of people there who didn’t know her but wanted to support her. She got a lot of cards, and people were really cheering her on.”
The girls’ mother, Nicole Botting, attended the graduation while another family member traveled to Boston to be with Allison. Both Paradis and Nicole Botting returned to Boston on Sunday, and Allison was recovering Tuesday from another surgery to clean dead muscle and tissue from her leg. Such surgeries have been nearly daily occurrences since Botting was admitted. Doctors amputated the girl’s severely damaged big toe late last week and still hope to save her leg.
Several fundraisers have been conducted to help the family. While care at Shriners is free, there are other medical costs associated with the accident, as well as the out-of-pocket expenses for them to be with Allison in Boston.
The town office has collected nearly $3,000 in donations from well-wishers, and donations will continue to be accepted.
Craig Hartsgrove, who owns Craig’s Maine Course in Island Falls and Craig’s Clam Shop in Patten, held benefit suppers at both of his restaurants last week, garnering an estimated $11,000 for the family.
Members of the Island Falls Fire and Ambulance Department will sponsor a BBQ & Blues Benefit 4-9 p.m. June 26 at the Island Falls town office. The minimum suggested donation for the event is $10.
Donations can be mailed to the Stacyville town office, P.O. Box 116, Stacyville 04777. Checks can be made payable to Nicole Botting. Note that the donation is for the Botting family in the memo line.
For information on the June 26 benefit, reach Joseph Levesque III, ambulance director for Island Falls Fire and Ambulance, at 540-4286 or e-mail email@example.com.