Longfellow middle school student Cody Davis grew up in a very small town in Iowa with his mom, step-dad and three sisters. But last June, this family dropped everything and moved to La Crosse, more out of necessity than choice.
"Because La Crosse is like one of the top 10 places to live if you are blind. A lot of people don't know that but it's true," Cody's mom Jodi Bonner said.
Cody is going blind.
"He would start coming home from school and say, 'I can't see the board.'"
What started as a routine eye doctor visit turned in to a diagnosis that will change life as he knows it. "They said it was optic nerve atrophy."
The condition causes permanent visual impairment. It is degenerative and in Cody's case degenerating fast. In all likelihood he will be totally blind by the end of summer. "All I could do is sit there. I couldn't speak. I was like 'no, this can't be happening. Wake up," Cody said.
"It was hard," Cody's parents Jeremy and Jodi said. "It was a real struggle because you feel absolutely helpless."
But then came an idea. A bucket list of sorts. Give Cody as many visual memories as they can before it's too late.
"We kind of just asked Cody, 'What is the number one thing you would like to do?' And he said, 'go see the ocean,'" Jodi said.
"All I've seen is green lakes," Cody said.
"I said, 'Ok. What's two more things you'd like to do?' And he said, 'Go to a bears game and go to the Colorado mountains.'"
They created a fundraising page to help with the cost and soon word began to spread and compassion started pouring in. Ten dollars here, twenty dollars there. Schools full of strangers even decided to help, like Logan Middle School in La Crosse. They held a fundraiser to poor a bag of pudding on teachers' heads.
"Our students are doing this and he's not even a classmate. They heard of his challenge and wanted to do something for him," says Logan Middle School physical education teacher Lorrae Swartz.
"So we are 'pudding' our best foot forward to help Cody see the ocean," adds Dean of Students Ben Wopat. "This is life long learning. there the learning that you get in text books and that is important. But it's also the giving to others and the sense of community."
The students and staff at Logan Middle raised $1,000 to help fulfill Cody's wish to see the ocean.
"It's amazing to see kids his age that actually want to get up and help somebody else," says mom Jodi. "All the help we have gotten from this town alone is amazing. Nobody knows us. We're not even from here. It just amazes me how much people care."
Every day Cody sees a little less. "Just hold up a straw to your eye and look through it. That's all you have to do to see what I see," Cody said. But he doesn't need eyes to see all the support around him.
"If I could get everybody in a Colosseum that have helped me, I would get down on my knees and thank them. Over and over again."
Click here if you would like to donate money to help Cody check things off his bucket list!