Fort Bend Star Newspaper Shares Alyssa’s Story

The Fort Bend Star newspaper of Fort Bend County, TX shared Alyssa’s story about her cancer journey, her wish for water wells, the Alyssa Ferguson World Changers Fund, and the FBISD naming of a new elementary school.

The text of the article follows:

New FBISD elementary school to bear name of late student

  • By Matt deGrood, Fort Bend Star
  • Apr 19, 2022
Alyssa Ferguson
Alyssa Ferguson, pictured in an orange dress, is surrounded by her parents, Scott and Sandy, and sister Jenna. Contributed photo

Fort Bend County residents and leaders in the days since the school district announced its 54th elementary school would be named after Alyssa Ferguson shared remembrances that wouldn’t be out of place discussing famous figures from the county’s past.

But whereas many of the district’s other schools are named after former board members, educators or famous county figures, Alyssa Ferguson Elementary School’s namesake is a former student who left her mark on the district before her untimely death in 2017 from cancer.

“As a committee, we felt Alyssa’s life provides a great example to our students on how they can utilize the profile-of-a-graduate attributes in serving as compassionate citizens and servant leaders,” FBISD board President Dave Rosenthal said.

The board of trustees recently approved the school’s name at a board meeting. Alyssa Ferguson Elementary School is set to open in the fall of 2023 at 13000 Heritage Park Drive in Missouri City, near the Sienna neighborhood that Ferguson called home during her lifetime.

Ferguson, who died at age 15, also impressed scores of Fort Bend County leaders and residents when she opted to use her Make-A-Wish to help build a well for a village in Africa.

“It’s an honor,” said Sandy Ferguson, Alyssa’s mother. “It’s been five years since she passed, and to know she’s still remembered and had such an incredible heart is an incredible legacy. Every kid who walks through the doors of the school will have a chance to see what she has done and realize that, even as a kid, they can make a difference in the world, in their school and in their communities.”

The Ferguson family had only moved to Fort Bend County in August 2013, and Alyssa Ferguson enrolled at Baines Middle School in FBISD, her father, Scott Ferguson, shared with the Fort Bend Star last week.

From the beginning, Alyssa Ferguson was cut from a different cloth than many other students.

“She always had a heart for others,” Scott Ferguson said. “Even as a little kid, when we’d pass someone who was homeless, she’d always say, ‘We have an extra room, why can’t they just stay with us?’”

Alyssa Ferguson was diagnosed in January 2014 with medulloblastoma, a brain tumor with an 80 percent treatment success rate, Scott Ferguson said.

“We just never dreamed we’d be in that 20 percent,” he said. “You assume those 20 percent are those with additional medical issues.”

While doctors have a lot of success against the type of tumor, they only have one treatment for it, Scott Ferguson explained. If that doesn’t work, there aren’t many other options, he said.

Over coming months and years, Alyssa Ferguson’s life became a series of radiation treatments, doctors’ visits and surgeries, Scott Ferguson said.

But through it all, Alyssa Ferguson remained devoted to school and maintaining a positive attitude, he said.

“She became friends with all the other kids going through treatment,” he said. “There was one boy there from China who didn’t speak English. She didn’t speak his language, so she downloaded a language app and became friends with him. He came to the house for dinner one time.”

And even as more of her time became occupied with trips to doctors and trials in Boston and elsewhere, Alyssa Ferguson worked to keep up at school, her family said.

“She kept fighting and kept going to school the entire time,” Scott Ferguson said. “She made good grades, was in band and involved in church and her youth group. She stayed active all the way until she went into hospice.”

Some of Alyssa Ferguson’s actions during her battle with brain cancer left an indelible impression on elected leaders in Fort Bend County as well.

“I learned about this incredible young lady when I heard what Alyssa did with her wish from Make-A Wish Texas Gulf Coast and Louisiana,” former U.S. Rep. Pete Olson said.

Where many children use their make-a-wish to meet a favorite athlete or visit somewhere, Alyssa Ferguson opted to use hers to build a well in a village in Zimbabwe called Murehwa.

Alyssa Ferguson came up with the idea because, years earlier, she’d read a book called “A Long Walk to Water” by Linda Sue Park and decided this was her opportunity to help, Scott Ferguson said.

“Amazingly, she told Scott and Sandy that, ‘The only reason I got this wish is because I got sick. I should use it to help someone. I didn’t earn it,’” Olson said.

Alyssa Ferguson’s family held out hope that she would eventually recover and they would all take a visit to the village, they said. But the Fergusons ended up making the journey after Alyssa’s death, where they discovered what a difference the well made in the lives of the villagers, they said.

“It was just beautiful to see how water was changing the whole village,” Scott Ferguson said.

The population of the village has almost doubled in the years since, and more children have been able to attend school because the well sits next to a school, Scott Ferguson said. Before, they had to spend their days traversing to a water hole, but now can attend classes and fill jugs of water on their way home, he said.

To keep their daughter’s memory alive, the family has set up a foundation to continue building wells, Scott Ferguson said. The foundation is called the Alyssa Ferguson World-Changers Fund, and it has helped build eight wells and counting across the world, including ones in Myanmar, India, Haiti and South Sudan, Scott Ferguson said.

Now, the Fergusons hope that generations of students will have the opportunity to learn from their daughter’s example, they said.

And the Fort Bend County community was unanimous in agreeing the honor was well-deserved.

“For those of you that never knew Alyssa, I want you to know this is a beautiful recognition from Fort Bend Independent School District,” said Sugar Land Councilperson William Ferguson, who is not related to Alyssa.

The link to the original article can be found here.

Community Impact Newspaper Shares Story About the Naming of Alyssa Ferguson Elementary

Community Impact Newspaper published a story about the naming of the new Alyssa Ferguson Elementary. The original story follows:

Fort Bend ISD board of trustees names new elementary school after student who died

The Fort Bend ISD board of trustees stand with Scott and Sandy Ferguson (center), whose daughter, Alyssa Ferguson, died in 2017 after a battle with medulloblastoma and now has a new elementary school named after her. (Courtesy Fort Bend ISD)
The Fort Bend ISD board of trustees stand with Scott and Sandy Ferguson (center), whose daughter, Alyssa Ferguson, died in 2017 after a battle with medulloblastoma and now has a new elementary school named after her. (Courtesy Fort Bend ISD)

Author: Community Impact Newspaper Hunter Marrow | 4:30 PM Apr 12, 2022 CDT

Image description

In a unanimous vote, the Fort Bend ISD board of trustees has named a new elementary school after one of the district’s former students.

The elementary school, scheduled to open in fall 2023 at 1300 Heritage Park Drive, Missouri City, is named after Alyssa Ferguson, who died in January 2017 as a freshman at Ridge Point High School after a battle with medulloblastoma, a brain cancer, according to an April 11 FBISD agenda report.

Ferguson, who lived in the Sienna community, was first diagnosed with the cancer while enrolled at Baines Middle School at the age of 12, according to an April 11 news release from the school district.

The naming comes due to Ferguson’s character and sense of giving while in the midst of her battle with cancer, according to the district’s news release. When asked what wish she wanted to receive from the Make-a-Wish Foundation, Ferguson replied, “The only reason I got this wish is because I got sick. I should use it to help someone. I didn’t earn it.”

Instead, Ferguson used her wish to dig a well in a village in Zimbabwe that did not have access to clean water. Since then, eight wells have now been dug because of the mission Ferguson started, according to the news release.

Per board policy, FBISD established a committee to select a name for the new school in early 2022; the committee was comprised of teachers, parents, community representatives and district staff along with FBISD Board President Dave Rosenthal and FBISD Board Member Kristin Malone.

“As a committee, we felt Alyssa’s life provides a great example to our students on how they can utilize the Profile of a Graduate attributes in serving as compassionate citizens and servant leaders,” Rosenthal said in the news release.

Ahead of the school opening in fall 2023, Carla Patton will serve as the school’s principal beginning in January 2023. Patton was named the school’s principal by the district’s board of trustees on April 11.

Link to original story above can be found here.

Mark Lowry Shares Alyssa’s Story on his “Just Whenever” Show

Mark Lowry is a Christian musician, comedian, and songwriter. He is best known for being a member of the Gaither Vocal Band and for writing the newly classic Christmas song “Mary, Did You Know?“.

Today, Mark interviewed Alyssa’s parents on his “Just Whenever” show and shared her story with his audience.

The episode is posted here. You are encouraged to enjoy the entire episode. The portion where Mark talks about Alyssa begins at the 19:50 mark.

The Alyssa Ferguson World Changers Fund is grateful to Mark Lowry for sharing Alyssa’s story and to the many new donors who have responded to this episode with a gift to Alyssa’s Fund.

Well Completed in South Sudan

While the COVID pandemic slowed the progress of water organizations throughout the world, new wells continued to be provided in villages allowing residents to have clean water for drinking, bathing, cleaning, and sanitizing their hands.

The Alyssa Ferguson World Changers Fund is proud to announce that a well has been completed in Adol Thiang in Warrap State, South Sudan.

You may recall that the Alyssa Ferguson World Changers Fund partnered with Water For South Sudan to provide the well. Water For South Sudan was formed as a result of the book “A Long Walk to Water”, the book that inspired Alyssa to wish for water wells. For more on the special story about Alyssa, the book, and why South Sudan was selected for this well, read here.

The well is inscribed in the Ditka language the villagers speak with the Bible verse Alyssa selected.

The LORD will always guide you; He will satisfy you in a sun-scorched land and strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” Isaiah 58:11

As people come to drink the pure physical water, they will read this verse and be reminded of the cleansing life-giving water of Jesus.

Thank you to all of the donors of the Alyssa Ferguson World Changers Fund who continue to bring water to the thirsty, honor Alyssa’s legacy and dream, and glorify God.

Alyssa Featured for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

The Honorable Pete Olson, former U.S. Congressman and long-time resident of Fort Bend County wrote a feature story in the Fort Bend Focus for Childhood Cancer Awareness month featuring Alyssa Ferguson and Faris Virani. The regular “Fort Bend Strong” column is a highlight of the magazine.

The text of the article follows….

Childhood Cancer Creating Fort Bend Strong Warriors

Posted on Sep 28, 2021 in FORT BEND STRONG



Warning! My column this month may make you cry. My eyes have watered a lot as I’ve been writing. As parents of two amazing children, Nancy and I have been truly blessed. Kate and Grant are happy and healthy adults. We thank God every day for these blessings. We have never heard the four most frightful words a parent can hear: “Your child has cancer.”  We have friends who have heard these horrifying words. These incredible neighbors have held their child as he or she breathed their last breath before going to heaven. These parents watched their amazing child use their last days on earth to make our world a better place. They saw their loving child show exactly what it means to be Fort Bend Strong!

July was Sarcoma Awareness Month. Sarcoma is called “the forgotten cancer” and is a cancer of our body’s connective tissue. It can occur in nerves, muscles, tendons, joints, bones, fat and blood vessels. Sarcoma is much more likely to attack children than older adults.

Despite being very rare, Ewing Sarcoma is the second most common bone cancer in children. On average, about 300 kids are diagnosed with Ewing Sarcoma per year in the United States. A few years ago, my fellow Rice Owls, Sugar Land neighbors and dear friends, Dr. Asha Virani and her husband, Farid were told that their young son, Faris, had aggressive Ewing Sarcoma. Faris was only six-years-old.

Incredibly, Faris responded to his Ewing Sarcoma diagnosis with a new mission for his life. He told Asha and Farid that he was going to be the one to cure Ewing Sarcoma! Faris could not believe that no real research to cure Ewing Sarcoma had been done since the 1950s. Faris was personally going to fill that research void. Faris is Fort Bend Strong!

At the start, Faris was asymptomatic with only a low-grade fever of 99’F. He was in no pain. When he finally received a CAT scan, the results were frightening; Ewing Sarcoma was in every bone in his body. It didn’t matter to Faris – he had a new life mission. He raised $1,000 for Ewing Sarcoma research. He put all that money into his tiny piggybank and told Asha and Farid that he was going to use every penny to “open a research center.”  Those words became reality. Faris’ parents and friends gave $2 million to start the “Faris D. Virani Ewing Sarcoma Center” at Texas Children’s Hospital. It is the only dedicated Ewing Sarcoma center in the United States. Faris was at the ribbon cutting ceremony on February 13th, 2014.

Before Faris left us after nine glorious years, he had one more task to finalize his efforts to end Ewing Sarcoma. Faris had observed that many cancers had colored ribbons – breast cancer has pink ribbons, pancreatic cancer has purple ribbons, etc. Faris thought that Ewing Sarcoma should have its own colored ribbon. So, “Let There Be Gold” was born. Mission accomplished. My puppy, Maisy, and I are proudly “Letting There Be Gold” in Faris’ honor and legacy. Faris Virani is and will always be Fort Bend Strong.

And since September was Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, I’d like to also share the story of an incredible young lady who I discovered while I was in Congress. Two short days after Alyssa Ferguson turned 12-years-old, she and her parents were informed that she had “medulloblastoma” – brain cancer that was likely terminal. Alyssa fought her cancer for three years. Sadly, she put on Angel’s Wings on January 26th, 2017, at her home in Missouri City with her parents, Sandy and Scott, by her side.

Sandy and Scott knew that they raised a daughter who had an unbounded love of life. They knew Alyssa always cared more about others than herself. But, no one could see what Alyssa was going to do to make her short life matter. As Alyssa’s battle waged on, she was approached by our wonderful, local Make-A-Wish Foundation about her personal and likely final wish. Usually, people in these situations focus on themselves. Common wishes are “I want to go to Disneyworld” or “I want meet a famous sports hero” or “I want to go to Hawaii and lie in the sun on a tropical beach.”  These wishes are completely normal and understandable. They are human. If I was in Alyssa’s situation, I most likely would have made a wish for myself. Many of us would do that as well. Not Alyssa – Alyssa is Fort Bend Strong!!!

As a young girl, Alyssa had read a book called, A Long Walk for Water. It was about Sudanese children walking miles just to get drinking water. That story never stopped inspiring Alyssa.  Facing her own mortality, Alyssa asked Sandy if her wish could be given to others. Sandy and Scott supported their daughter. Make-A-Wish supported Alyssa’s wish, too. So, Alyssa’s wish was used to build a drinking well for a small village in Africa. What started out as one well in Zimbabwe has now grown to three drinking water wells in Myanmar, one in India, one in Haiti, and one in Kenya, with one under construction in war-torn South Sudan. Alyssa dreamed of taking a drink of water from one of her wells, but when her condition prevented her from traveling, she told her mom, “They need water now.  Go ahead and build it without me, and we’ll get to visit later.” Alyssa had a calling. Her name, “Alyssa Janae,” means “God has answered.” Amen. During her short, incredible life, Alyssa answered God’s calling for people in need in Africa and Asia.  Alyssa Janae is Fort Bend Strong!

I hope you were inspired and grateful for Faris and Alyssa. Please wear a gold ribbon for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month every September. Faris’ parents set up the Faris Virali Foundation to help end Ewing Sarcoma at http://www.thefarisfoundation.org. Maybe you can sign up to play in next year’s Faris Foundation Brighter Days Golf Classic.

Alyssa’s story is immortalized with a display at our local Make-A-Wish office at 12625 Southwest Freeway in Stafford. If you want to help Alyssa drill more water wells, her parents set up the Alyssa World Challenge at http://www.alyssasfund.com. Check it out, and stay Fort Bend Strong!

That’s all for this month. I hope Faris’ and Alyssa’s stories of perseverance and love for others touched your heart. If you have a Fort Bend Strong story, please zip me an email at pete@absolutelyfocusmedia.com. If your email is political, it is instantly deleted.

Until next month, we are Fort Bend Strong!

The link to the original story can be found here.

Giving Tuesday

Today is Giving Tuesday, a day that follows a season of being thankful, a day of shopping like crazy in the stores, and a day of shopping online for great deals. But the best deal of all is to express gratitude through helping others. If you haven’t made a gift to the Alyssa Ferguson World Changers Fund this year, please do so today. We are grateful for every gift of every size. There are 8 water wells already due to your generosity. Eight wells have transformed whole villages with clean water, education, agriculture, and health! Will you join us today with your gift to build the next water well and honor Alyssa’s memory? 

Make your gift today!

Water Well Funded in South Sudan

Every water well God blesses the Alyssa Ferguson World Changers Fund to dig is a special well — special to the Fund and its donors, special to Alyssa’s memory, special to the Fergusons, and of course special to the village that becomes transformed through Christ and his living water. But the new water well being announced today is extra special. The well will be in the country of South Sudan, located in East-Central Africa.

South Sudan Map

This new well is in partnership with Water for South Sudan. You may recall that when Alyssa was granted a wish by the Make A Wish Foundation, the song “Do Something” by Matthew West inspired her to do something with her wish. As she pondered what her “do something” might be, she thought back on the book she read in school, A Long Walk To Water by Linda Sue Park and made the decision to have a well dug in Africa for a village in need. For the full story, read the About Alyssa page.

In the book, which you should read, one of the Lost Boys of Sudan ends up starting a charity to help with water in his cherished South Sudan. That charity grew into what is now Water for South Sudan, the organization the Alyssa Ferguson World Changers Fund is partnering with for the new water well.

Being 2020 is the year Alyssa would have graduated from high school, it is a fitting time to bring this full circle. Alyssa read a book in school that left an impression on her heart. Matthew West wrote a song where she heard God calling her to Do Something. This graduation year, the Alyssa Ferguson World Changers Fund partners with the very charity featured in the book Alyssa read in school that inspired her vision and launched this ministry to help provide water around the world. God be praised for the circle he created!

Thank you for being a part of the Alyssa Ferguson World Changers Fund, honoring God and honoring Alyssa’s memory and dream. Join us with a gift to her fund and help us with the next well. People are thirsty. You can help! Do Something and help reduce that Long Walk to Water.

Well Completed in Kenya

complete slab pouring.

 

The Alyssa Ferguson World Changers Fund is pleased to announce that a water well has been completed in Turkana, Kenya! This special well is in memory of both Alyssa and her dear friend Randy Roberts.

The new well provides fresh clean water to 1600 people. Previously, there had been two attempts to drill a bore hole in this area and sadly, both times they failed to find water. This time, a more recent technology was tried through a grant provided by the Alyssa Ferguson World Changers Fund to Christian Relief Fund. God used this time, this place, these two nonprofits, a large number of World Changers donors, this new technology, and these funds to let the water flow!

The new well is located on a high school campus, allowing students to attend school and receive education versus spending their days hiking and hauling dirty water. Now they attend school all day and bring home fresh water to their families at the end of the day. Praise God for both his earthly and his living water!

Photo with plaque

If you would like to assist in providing funding for the next well, click here to explore the different ways you can make a gift to the Alyssa Ferguson World Changers Fund.

Children Raise Money for Water Well

The children attending Vacation Bible School this summer at First Colony Church of Christ in Sugar Land, TX collected money for the Alyssa Ferguson World Changers Fund.

As part of their lesson on learning about serving, they were told Alyssa’s story and given the opportunity to join her ministry. Each day, they brought their change and put it in a wishing well. Some children even worked hard by creating their own lemonade stands, car washes, and doing chores at home to collect more money for the well. All in all, the children donated $2,000 toward the next water well!

All of us at the Alyssa Ferguson World Changers Fund are grateful and impressed by their generosity!

VBS Well