Robots to help girl with immune disorder keep up with classmates in school

ST. LOUIS – Fox 2/KPLR 11 recently introduced you to a young girl fighting a life-threatening immune disease disorder. But thanks to the Luca Foundation, one aspect of her life will be made a bit easier and more enjoyable.

Laila Anderson’s new “double robot” will function as her eyes and ears at school while she prepares for a bone marrow transplant. She’ll be out of school but not away from it thanks to the robot. And that’s exciting for her.

“My class can hear me. I'll be able to hear them. I can mute them. They can mute me. It’s basically like Facetime,” she said.

This will allow Laila to keep up with her school work but also give her a sense of normalcy.

“I think it will help because I could keep contact with my friends so I’m not just in my own isolation prison room,” she said.

Angela Gruszka, the co-founder of the Luca Foundation, reached out to the Andersons and offered the opportunity for a virtual education for Laila. Her son, Luca, missed four months of school while battling leukemia. Her foundation raised money to purchase the robots to help kids like her son.

“It was extremely valuable,” Gruszka said. “Made a huge difference because we were dealing with so many other types of things with Luca’s treatment.”

Laila's teacher said she’s an inspiration and is part of the class.

“She's going with us everywhere. We can take her so she will be part of our classroom throughout the day,” said Kelli Winkelmann, a teacher at Barrett Elementary School.

The Luca Foundation has purchased nine robots and four have already been accounted for in just over a month.

“I think it would be great if they were all over the state of Missouri,” Gruszka said.

“Figured out how to move it forward and turn it around. I’m not the best at it but hopefully I’ll get better,” Laila said.

And she will be able to continue to be part of the afternoon break, where she loves talking with her teacher and watching soccer.

“A couple weeks ago she said, ‘Can we Facetime,’ so I can feel like I’m on the bench and of course I said, ‘You certainly can,’” Winkelmann said.

The Andersons and Barrett Elementary said they’re so grateful for the work the Luca Foundation is doing. They are encouraging anyone who appreciates this to donate what they can so the foundation can purchase more of the 4,000 robots.

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