Most schools describe their community as a family that's welcoming to any student who walks through their doors, and Elkmont High proved just how seriously they take that description when it came to seventh-grader Ethan Layfield.

Ethan was recently diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver, a disease that landed him in need of a liver transplant at only 13 years old. According to a gofundme account set up by his dad Shane Layfield, his parents didn't have health insurance when they learned of his diagnosis and were in need of financial support to help them cover not just doctor visits and hospital stays, but tests, surgeries and recovery, too.

"Trying to buy his medicine and make his co-pays at office visits, along with trips back and forth to Children's Hospital, has been very costly," Shane Layfield wrote on the gofundme page. "... We are doing the best we can to get by given the circumstances."

Ethan had only been an in-person student at Elkmont High for the better part of one school year before the pandemic struck and the school shifted to virtual learning. However, middle school counselor Katie Clark said even in that limited time, Ethan made himself known as a great student and friend.

When the Layfield family learned Ethan would finally be getting a liver transplant, Elkmont High hosted a fundraiser, "Change for Ethan," to help cover the cost. For two weeks, the school collected pocket change, cash and even checks at football games, in classes and at the front office.

Some of the donors didn't know Ethan or his family, Clark said. They just knew there was an Elkmont student in need.

"We wanted to support him and his family," she said. "... This community has really just come in and supported this student."

All told, the Elkmont community raised more than $4,000 for the Layfields, Clark said. Ethan had his liver transplant surgery Sept. 18, and on Thursday, his classmates celebrated with a walk-through welcome-home presentation in front of the school's front doors. They held signs, cheered and waved as Ethan walked by with his parents before standing next to Clark, who handed them a jar of change and a check. The family shared their gratitude for everyone's help.

"There's been a lot of people ... and I can't thank you enough," Shane Layfield said. "We love Elkmont. We sure do."

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