Dress-up day raises funds for sick child

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JACK.CONROY@nullcluthaleader.co.nz

Pupils at a Balclutha high school have come out in support of a young girl suffering from a rare form of cancer.

Four-year-old Esme Palmer, of Balclutha, is being treated in Christchurch for Burkitt’s lymphoma, during a stay that could be longer than six months.

Esme’s father is Jason Palmer, a teacher at South Otago High School.

His pupils decided to organise a prince and princesses dress up day in honour of Esme.

“We just thought it would be a nice, fun way of showing our support. We know she likes princesses,” SOHS pupil Emily Unahi said.

Pupils and teachers brought along a donation and dressed in their fanciest dresses and waistcoats.

Teacher Jo Jory said Mr Palmer “is a really great guy. The kids love him. All the staff love him.”

“And the dress up day was driven by the junior student council. They wanted to do something for him.”

Esme’s mother, Megan Balchin said the young princess enjoyed seeing everyone dressed up.

“It’s great. It’s the best thing about being in a small community – how everybody gives their support,” she said.

Mr Palmer said they were “extremely appreciative of everything that everyone has done for us and we are unsure how to thank everyone.”

A Givealittle page set up by friend and neighbour Kelly Bensley intends to raise funds for Esme and her parents during their time in Christchurch.

It has already raised more than $26,000.

Mrs Bensley has ties to both of Esme’s parents.

“I’m also a teacher at South Otago High School, so I work with James, and I’ve known Megan since we were about 5 years old. Our daughters are both 4 years old.”

She said she was overwhelmed with the response to the page and said “when someone needs help, that’s when our community shines”.

Efforts to help the family included Otago rugby player Matt Whaanga auctioning his jersey and PGG Wrightson donating profits from a barbecue at the South Otago A&P Show.