Auburndale community unites behind young girl with rare disease
Bring Your Tractor to School Day showcases town’s farming and philanthropic culture
By Adam Hocking
AUBURNDALE — The visuals were great, but the cause was better as dozens of students steered tractors into Auburndale, through the elementary school parking lot, and to their final destination at Auburndale High School for Bring Your Tractor to School Day on Friday morning.
The annual event supports a different cause each year, and this year T-shirts linked to the event, a brat fry, a GoFundMe account, and a rose sale raised funds for the family of Amelia Pleet. Pleet is a kindergarten student in Auburndale with multiple osteochondromas, which “is characterized by growths of multiple osteochondromas (benign cartilage-capped bone tumors that grow outward from the metaphyses of long bones),” according to The National Center for Biotechnology Information.
Pleet’s mother, Sarah Pleet, said the disease was rare, noting that about one child in 50,000 is afflicted. Last month Amelia had a tumor removed from her neck that was putting pressure on her spinal cord. This summer Amelia will have “her hip joint reconstructed to allow more space for mobility,” Sarah said.
“Most kids that have this condition only have six to eight tumors, and she’s got dozens of them. They’re in every joint. They’re riddled in her hands,” Sarah said.
The chance the tumors are cancerous is less than 1 percent, but every time one is removed, it is tested to ensure there is no sign of cancer, according to Sarah. Ameila is used to living with pain, and Sarah said the disease does not seem to bother her all that much.
“If you would watch her on the playground, you wouldn’t know that anything is wrong with her,” Sarah said. “If you’d see the X-rays, you’d be like, ‘Oh, my gosh. How are we going to ever deal with this?’”
The outpouring of support from the community, Sarah said, has been overwhelming.
“We are so moved by it and so thankful, and it really means a lot,” Sarah said as her eyes welled with tears. “A lot of people, they don’t necessarily understand. We’re going to meet our deductible every year for the next 12 years.”
Sarah added, “That’s what we’re facing as a family, so any help means the world.”
T-shirts sold for the event were emblazoned with the words, “This ride supports Amelia’s bumpy ride.”
Sarah thanked the families of Auburndale for helping coordinate the event and allowing students to drive tractors to school. She also thanked the local Future Farmers of America organization.
Those interested in helping Amelia Pleet and her family in their fight against multiple osteochondromas can contribute financially at gofundme.com/HelpMillieOut.