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Students at Beaver school give an angel her wings

| Saturday, June 1, 2013, 12:11 a.m.
'Our yard never looked so good. A lotta people love you', said mom Laura Zak to her daughter Angela, 10, as they arrive home in Beaver Friday, May 31, 2013. Angela was diagnosed with Acute Lymphblastic Leukemia with Philadelphia chromosoome-positive in June of 2012. Although home schooled now, her student friends from Dutch Ridge Elementary School wanted to show their support with hundreds of hand-made angel wing signs. Heidi Murrin Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Heidi Murrin | Tribune-Review
One of hundreds of handmade angel wing signs made by students at Dutch Ridge Elementary School for Angela Zak, 10, of Beaver who is battling a rare form of acute lymphoblastic leukemia since last June. The students surprised Angela with their show of support by covering her front yard with the signs on Friday, May 31, 2013.
Heidi Murrin | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Angela Zak, 10, of Beaver returned home on Friday, May 31, 2013, to find her former schoolmates at Dutch Ridge Elementary School had left heartfelt wishes on her lawn.
Heidi Murrin | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
'This is cool', says Angela Zak, 10, of Beaver as she is surprised by hundreds of hand-made angel wing signs in her front yard Friday, May 31, 2013. Student friends from Dutch Ridge Elementary School were showing their support of Angela as she battles Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia with Philadelphia chromosome-positive. There is a foundation set up for her entitiled 'Angela's Angels' which helps to offset some of the costs of care. Heidi Murrin PIttsburgh Tribune-Review
Heidi Murrin | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Angela Zak, 10, of Beaver, looks over the hundreds of handmade angel wings signs that classmates in Dutch Ridge Elementary School surprised her with Friday, May 31, 2013. Angela was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia Philadelphia chromosome-positive in June of 2012.
Angela Zak, 10, got quite the surprise when she returned home in Beaver from chemotherapy Friday, May 31, 2013. Students in grades 4-6th at Dutch Ridge Elementary School made angel wing signs to show their support for Angela as she battles Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia Philadelphia Chromosone-positive since June of 2012. 'Our yard never looked so good', her mother Laura said. Heidi Murrin Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
'Our yard never looked so good. A lotta people love you', said mom Laura Zak to her daughter Angela, 10, as they arrive home Friday, May 31, 2013 in Beaver to be surprised by hundreds of angel wing signs in support of Angela in her battle with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia Philadelphia chromosome-positive. Although home schooled now, Angela knows many of the students from Dutch Ridge Elementary School who made the signs. Heidi Murrin Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
HEIDI MURRIN | TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Angela Zak, 10, reads over hundreds of angel wings in her Beaver yard that were placed by students in grades 4-6th from Dutch Ridge Elementary School in Beaver Friday, May 31, 2013. Angela was diagnosed with ALL (Acute Lymphoblastic Luekemia) with Philadelphia chromosone-positive in June of 2012. The kids wanted to show their support with this surprise. Heidi Murrin Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Even at Christmas, Angela Zak has never seen her home look the way it did on Friday — when 530 angel wings dotted the front lawn.

“I was so surprised. They made me happy. I have no idea what I'm going to do with all of them,” said Angela, who is 10 and was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive type of acute lymphoblastic leukemia one year ago.

Angela's schoolmates made the angel wings; each bore a handwritten note.

She first saw the wings when she returned from Children's Hospital on Friday afternoon. Angela was at the hospital to receive chemotherapy in her spine.

By late afternoon, Angela's mother, Laura Zak, said the home was the center of attention in Beaver.

“It's an amazing sight,” Laura Zak said. “We have people stopping by and neighbors walking over. I have never seen my own house look like anything like this.”

Angela is in the fourth grade at Dutch Ridge Elementary School. Doctors diagnosed her with leukemia last June, and she's spent about six of the past 12 months in the hospital. She has been unable to attend school this year and is tutored at home.

On Friday morning, the 37 students in sixth-grade teacher Pam Learn's class rode a bus to the Zak home, where they spent about 30 minutes placing the angels on the lawn.

The wings are made of white paper, decorated and covered with plastic. Every student in the school made one.

“They were so excited about this. They really miss her, think about her and want her to get well,” Learn said. “And she brings out the best in them. The messages they wrote on the angel wings were very heartfelt.”

Learn admires Angela.

“Angela is an amazing, brave child who never complains, never says, ‘Why me?' and always thinks of other people, even now,” she said.

Angela's form of acute lymphoblastic leukemia, called Philadelphia chromosome-positive, is a life-threatening childhood cancer that requires weekly chemotherapy for about two-and-a-half years. That type of cancer makes remission more difficult.

Since Angela was diagnosed last year, the community has overwhelmed her family with support and encouragement. Her classmates even sold lemonade to raise money for Angela's treatment.

“Everyone is just so supportive,” Laura Zak said. “Angela is amazing; she is my hero.”

Rick Wills is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7944 or at rwills@tribweb.com.

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