By JD Malone
NAZARETH ; Students of Lower Nazareth Elementary School gathered Monday in the district high school’s auditorium to celebrate 19 of their classmates.
They had no clue that "American Idol" runner-up Clay Aiken planned to join them.
Aiken, co-founder of the Bubel/Aiken Foundation, which published the students’ book, "Our Friend Mikayla," earlier this year, dropped in to thank them for writing it.
Mikayla Resh, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, became the center of a biography written and illustrated by her third-grade classmates two years ago. Mikayla’s mother, Kimberly Resh, wanted to thank everyone involved and planned the all-school assembly.
"If the whole school wasn’t so wonderful to my daughter, there would be no story," Resh said. "They are just amazing children."
The student body, totaling 686 children, sat and listened as Principal Rose Allshouse and Resh thanked various people for their support.
Kristy Barnes, president of the Bubel/Aiken Foundation, announced the singer. The foundation works to have children with special needs included in the world around them.
Two girls from the school’s chorus who were sitting in the front row fell out of their seats. The rest of the students sat still, eyes wide as Aiken strolled on stage.
Aiken brought presents. The authors climbed the stage one by one to receive an inscribed copy of "My Friend Mikayla."
An autographed copy will also be given to every student at the school.
"May I read the book to you?" Aiken asked.
"Yes," the students chanted.
Aiken read the book as the illustrations were projected onto a large screen. When he came to the page featuring himself on "American Idol," he stopped. "Who wrote this page?" Aiken asked. In the front row, Logan Houptley’s hand shot up. "Come on up here," Aiken said, and he asked Logan to read the page.
"I didn’t know I was (going to read with Aiken), so I was really nervous," Logan said.
Victor Lesky, superintendent of the Nazareth Area School District, thanked Aiken and the students.
"Mikayla has added so much to the experience of the students at Lower Nazareth Elementary that she by far meant more to us than we have to her," Lesky said.
Before leaving, Aiken talked with the 19 authors and posed for numerous photographs. He wanted everyone to know that his foundation is more than lip service.
"I think that I have always said that it would be my goal that if I wasn’t able to keep on singing to continue with the foundation," Aiken said. "I would love to think that this book will be (the students’) legacy in a way and hope that what we do is something that lives on far longer than my own life."
Aiken, who was to appear Monday night at Easton’s State Theatre, broke a personal rule to never sing before a performance. Leaning over Mikayla as Resh held her, Aiken sang a few lines from "When I See You Smile."
According to Mike Resh, Mikayla’s father, Aiken heard the students joke about wanting money for their book. Aiken didn’t have money for them, but he heard one of them mention that riding in a limo would be cool.
Aiken arranged for limousines to take the students back to school. On his way out, Aiken broke the news about the limousines. The students burst with excitement.
"Oh my God! Thank you!" Michael Allen said. "Is this a dream? A limo is the best. It is like the first time I’ll be in a limo. It is so awesome!"
In front of the high school, the young authors piled into their limousines. The boys in one car cracked open cans of soda from the mini bar and the girls giggled with excitement in the other. They pulled away like pop stars — maybe inspired by Aiken — to horns honking, camera flashes and a few parents waving.