Los Fresnos students raise $2,500 for classmate

May 11—Only have a minute? Listen instead

For the better part of a year, students and staff at Los Fresnos Elementary School have rallied behind classmate Isabella Arce as she battled leukemia at Driscoll Children's Hospital in Corpus Christi.

On Wednesday, the #Bella Strong fundraising movement at the school handed over $2,500 raised since Bella and her family returned to Brownsville from Corpus Christi, where they had relocated while she received grueling cancer treatments.

Her mother Alma Arce was a teacher at Los Fresnos Elementary. Bella, a second grader when she was diagnosed, and her brother Nicholas, attend there.

"The school just decided to rally with Bella returning home," Alma Arce said. "We decided to do something for Driscoll because they were just so amazing. They literally saved my daughters life, and so we kind of took it from there," she said.

"It was just so beautiful. ... The children raised funds and then they'd write their name on their tag and put it on the wall, the heroes wall for the kids that helped. It's amazing. They raised like $2,500. The children were all rooting for Bella, even the children that were not in her grade. It's just beautiful how everybody really came together. They're all rooting for Bella, and helping other children, not just Bella. They all have such big hearts and it just really touched us."

The doctors at Driscoll Children's Hospital in Corpus Christi fly into Brownsville once a week to treat patients at Driscoll Children's Specialty Clinic, which made it possible for Bella to receive maintenance treatments in Brownsville once she progressed to that point, her mother said.

"We live in Brownsville, I was teaching at Los Fresnos Elementary and she and my son were students there. They know everyone there. It's like family to them."

Veronica Grimaldo, the principal at Los Fresnos Elementary, said students raised the $2,500 within a week of learning Bella was returning to Brownsville.

Grimaldo said fourth-grade teacher Maria Isabel Martinez was the mastermind behind the fundraisers held throughout the year.

"We're happy for Bella. Even though she has to continue her treatments down here, it's great that she could do that," her father David Arce said. "It uplifted her. You can see it in her face that she's happy."

Wearing a #Bella Strong T shirt, Bella herself was a little shy, but when pressed, said, "Thank you Driscoll Hospital for making me better."

Dr. Ndina Nhlane, Bella's doctor and a specialist in pediatric hematology and oncology, said she has been a wonderful patient. He said receiving the kind of support Bella received from her classmates makes a big difference in a patient's recovery.

"You have to remember that cancer doesn't just affect just the patient, but also the family, so any type of support is greatly appreciated. It makes a big difference," he said.