LAYTON -- Third-grade students at Heritage Elementary School recently surprised one of their classmates, who is struggling with leukemia, with a Christmas tree decked out in her favorite things: puppies and the color pink.
For Aumberlee Davis, 8, of Layton, life changed drastically in February when she was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia and immediately began chemotherapy.
Her classmates regularly Skype with her to keep in touch, even donning plastic caps to cover their hair so she doesn't feel awkward.
One classmate recently told Aumberlee in a Skype conversation that she looked good and asked what she does during the day, as she is being home-schooled.
She said "not much," but her mother said Aumberlee is receiving intense chemotherapy treatments weekly, which will continue until March, and if everything goes as planned, she'll move to maintenance treatments.
Aumberlee's third-grade teacher, Sharie Bryson, visits Aumberlee weekly for home schooling. She decided to have the class decorate a tree in Aumberlee's honor for the Festival of Trees held at the beginning of December in the South Towne Expo Center in Sandy.
Bryson helped Davis decide on the theme of the tree, and then the class got to work recruiting the help of the other Heritage Elementary third-graders, many of whom are Aumberlee's friends.
Before long, all 125 students, including Aumberlee herself, finished their ornaments and the tree was covered with felt bone ornaments, sewn-together paw prints, pink balls rolled in glitter, and even some black-and-white stuffed ornaments resembling Dalmatians.
"It has been the sweetest thing, watching these kids who just love this little girl and want her to get better," Bryson said. "Ultimately, we hope what we are doing for her will give her hope and keep (her) going."
One of her classmates, Rachel Edgington, of Layton, hopes the ornaments the students made will help Aumberlee.
"I was really sad because I couldn't play with her anymore, but I was glad to help her with my ornament," Rachel said. "I think it made her feel happy."
Once word of the tree project spread, other donations started rolling in.
One grandmother of a student in Aumberlee's class spent a month making a quilt out of fabric featuring pink puppies. Another mother donated the tree, a friend built a dog house to go with the tree, and yet another friend made some pajamas.
"It's amazing to see all these people coming together to make it happen," Bryson said.
Once the tree was decorated, it was displayed at the Festival of Trees. Without the Davis family knowing, friends of Bryson purchased the tree and surprised the family with it after the event was over.
"It was so fun to find out people we don't even know have made all of this for us," said Yvonne Davis. "The tree itself is definitely (Aumberlee's) personality."
Aumberlee also approved of the tree, saying her favorite part was the Dalmatians.
Aumberlee is upbeat and cheerful most all of the time, even though she is sick.
"Sure, she has her moments and bad days," said her mother, "but normally she just bounces back and I'm thinking, 'You're supposed to have cancer,' but she's just a happy little girl."