EVERETT – Savannah Rogers, party of 52?
The 8-year-old girl burst through the doors of the Outback Steakhouse on Evergreen Way Friday with her signature smile.
She walked confidently, wearing a lavender sweater set and skirt, and with a newly shaved head.
Behind her was an enthusiastic entourage of supporters – her family, her first-grade class from Olivia Park Elementary School, her teacher and others.
In front of her was a smiling Josh Coley, managing partner of the restaurant, and seven members of his staff.
The Outback opened four hours early Friday to give a free farewell luncheon for Savannah on what may be her last day of school for a while. At the end of the month, she will undergo brain surgery at Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Seattle. The hope, her family says, is that the operation will end – or at least reduce – frequent seizures she has endured almost all her life.
She and her parents are regulars at the Outback. Savannah is a big fan of its Mac A Roo ‘N Cheese sandwich.
Jamie and Greg Rogers have struggled with medical bills, and each has taken a second job. With so much going on, they’d forgotten until this week that Friday was their wedding anniversary.
“They’ve been through enough,” Coley said. “This will get their mind off it and let her be with her peers.”
Thursday night, Savannah had her head shaved to prepare for the surgery. To show their support, so did her parents.
Her mother, Jamie Rogers, cried when she saw the servers waiting to welcome the party.
“Stop! You’re going to make all of us cry,” said server Janee Jones when Rogers gave her a hug. “We just came here to help.”
Not only did Coley donate the food, but Jones and her co-workers offered up their time to serve the kids.
Rarely have the restaurant-issue coloring sheets and crayons been so useful. The students colored and chatted while waiting for their lunch of chicken fingers, cheeseburgers, grilled cheese sandwiches and french fries.
Olivia Park Elementary Principal Edie Reclusado stopped in to visit with the children and wish Savannah well.
“It’s just the perfect way for the children to celebrate Savannah without making her feel self-conscious. Instead, it’s a party,” Reclusado said.
Savannah’s teacher, Meg Grimes, said the party was good for all the kids. It will give Savannah happy memories facing a challenging surgery, and it helps her classmates learn compassion.
They can join Savannah in her journey rather than making her feel different, Grimes said.
“She is just a very special girl,” Grimes said. “She almost always has a smile, and she tries her best. If there is one word for her, it is perseverant.”
Sitting below a banner that said “Hurry back Savannah,” three of her friends talked about how they enjoyed the party, but also how they’d miss her.
“It’s lots of fun here, but I feel very bad for Savannah,” said Cameron Van Horn.
|Savannah Rogers and her family have already received an outpouring of support, but they face even tougher times ahead.
To help, her grandmother has established a benevolent fund in her name. To donate, visit any branch of Washington Mutual Bank.
“Yeah,” said McKenzie Newman. “Very, very, very, very.”
“Everybody likes her. We don’t want her to feel left out,” Cameron said. “I’m going to write her a card and ask for her phone number.”
“Me too,” McKenzie said.
“Me too,” said Tanya Beck.
After the children walked back to the school, Savannah charged for the playground. There, another student hugged her, rubbed her fuzzy head, and together they ran for the toys.
Reporter Jennifer Warnick: 425-339-3429 or firstname.lastname@example.org.