Raising awareness for Chiari has Craig Middle School dancing | CraigDailyPress.com

Raising awareness for Chiari has Craig Middle School dancing

SaraJo Smith, who was suspended for defying Craig Middle School's face paint rules to raise awareness of Chiari, spent Friday evening selling baked goods at the annual Halloween dance to raise money for the Klein family.

— One of the girls suspended from Craig Middle School in September was dancing for a good cause Friday evening as the school's annual Halloween dance was turned into a fundraiser for the Klein family of Craig.

SaraJo Smith and her sister Carmelita Bays used eyeliner to write #Chiari, #Avee and team Avee on their cheeks in September to honor their friend, Aveahna Klein, who has Chiari malformation.

The girls' face make-up violated CMS policy against face paint in school, resulting in a one-day suspension.

The school's disciplinary action created an uproar, bringing attention to the girls and their cause.

"It started off rough, helping the Klein family, but it's getting easier with more people understanding why I did it," Smith said.

Chiari malformations are structural defects in the cerebellum that most often occur during fetal development pushing the brain into the spinal canal, according to the website of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

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Those suffering from the condition may experience "neck pain, balance problems, muscle weakness, numbness or other abnormal feelings in the arms or legs, dizziness, vision problems, difficulty swallowing, ringing or buzzing in the ears, hearing loss, vomiting, insomnia, depression or headache," the website said.

Three of the four Klein children have Chiari and must travel to Denver and New York to receive treatment. A Go Fund Me site was set-up to allow people to help the family.

In the weeks since Smith's and Bay's attempt to raise support for the family and their subsequent suspension, middle school Principal David Grabowski, school staff and students have turned the conflict into life lessons about community compassion.

As a result CMS National Junior Honor Society students that organize the annual Halloween dance chose to use it to create awareness and raise funds for the Klein family.

"I'm really glad we did the bake sale and the dance," Smith said.

CMS Student Council has decided to review "the pros and cons of having face painting in the school environment" as one of their projects for the year, said student Vice President Lauren Hilley in her report at the October meeting of the district board of education.

"I am impressed with the administration and students of the middle school to take this and turn it into a positive and a learning opportunity for all students," said Superintendent Dave Ulrich.

The CMS 2016 Halloween Dance and fundraiser video available at craigdailypress.com includes short interviews with honor society students and Smith.

Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com or follow her on Twitter @CDP_Education.