To know 12-year-old Lindsey Sturtevant is to love her.
"She does not always think of herself, she thinks of other people," friend Mika Hance said.
"She is really funny," friend Rileigh Thomas said. "And she is just kind and everybody loves her because she can get along with everybody. She is just awesome all-around."
And that's why when her friends found out she was sick and needed a bone marrow transplant, they knew they had to think big.
"When we found out that Lindsey was going to the hospital, everybody was sad and it was really fun throwing a surprise for her," Mika said.
And a surprise it was. Friday was the last day of school for the sixth-grader at Chester-Andover Elementary before she heads off to the Boston Children's Hospital for intensive chemo and the eventual transplant. Her send-off was fit for a star.
"I want her to know that we will never forget her, that we care about her and that the whole school is hoping for her to get better," Mika said.
And Lindsey's message to her classmates was a simple one: "That I love them and they are the awesomest class ever," she said.
But it wasn't just her school that wanted to wish her well. There was no yellow school bus for this brave little girl. Instead, she went home by fire engine, a trip her friends say sparked all kind of emotions.
"A hot mess," friend Madison Wilson said. "First we cried and then we laughed and then we cried some more."
Lindsey's message to the chief and his team was again one of thanks.
"That they are awesome and thank you for letting me have this," Lindsey said.
"I grew up in this community. I thought about leaving at one point in time but then when I had kids, I knew this is where I wanted my kids to grow up and everybody comes together when it counts and this is one of those times that it counts," Chester Fire Chief Matthew Wilson said.
"For me as a teacher, I think one of the gifts we give to kids is teaching them character and compassion is a big part of being part of a community," said Laura Davis, a tutor at the school.
At 5, Lindsey was diagnosed with acute myelodysplastic syndrome. While that's in remission, she's heading back to Boston because her body is rejecting the first bone marrow transplant she received to help her blood cells rebound.
"Lindsey is probably the bravest and strongest kid I know," her mom, Sue Willis said. "When she was diagnosed at 5 years old her attitude was I don't like it, but if got to do it, let's do it."
And do it. She'll do it again with the town of Chester behind her.
"This is her second bone marrow transplant," Willis said. "Seven years ago we wouldn't be able to make it without you guys and we're not going to be able to make it without your support again."
It's that support and simple wishes her friends hope get her through.
Madison Wilson: That she gets better very, very soon, because I want to see her.
Lindsey Sturtevant: I'm going to kidnap you and take you to Boston with me.
An idea that, for now, Lindsey hasn't ruled out.
"That I am going to take all of my friends with me," she said, crying and hugging her friends in an emotional embrace.
As a good luck present to Lindsey, the fire department presented her with an iPad so she can stay in touch with her classmates while she is away. They have also set up a fund to help the family cover medical expenses.
She has extensive chemo treatment for a number of days, and then the transplant is in the middle of February. And then seven months of isolation so she doesn't get sick.
Sunday, March 9 2014 8:08 AM EDT2014-03-09 12:08:24 GMT
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