By Ashley Rader
East Side Elementary School Principal Josh Wandell received a special birthday surprise Tuesday morning, wrapped in hundreds of familiar-looking packages: every student at East Side came to his surprise party wearing “Race for Wandell” shirts.
Wandell, who turned 35 Tuesday, was greeted with the Happy Birthday song and chants of “We Love You Mr. Wandell” when he entered the school’s gym.
“I had no idea,” Wandell said. “I knew they were planning something but not something this big. I didn’t think they would have included the whole student body and my family.”
The shirts the students wore are for an upcoming 3k race on Sept. 14, which will be a fundraiser for Wandell’s family and to raise awareness of ALS disease. Wandell was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, on June 4.
The party was hosted by Wandell’s family and East Side teachers, who had help from Director of Schools Ed Alexander getting Wandell out of the building so they could set up for the party. While Wandell was away on his impromptu field trip, students donned their “Race for Wandell” T-shirts and made their way to the gym, which was decorated with banners bearing birthday greetings from each class.
The students were excited to be a part of Wandell’s birthday celebration and share with their principal how much he means to them.