Student's 'heartfelt gift' colors his teacher's world

Franklin Middle School student Crue Etzel decided to raise funds to purchase a pair of corrective sunglasses for his color blind teacher, Patrick Cook. This picture was taken from the video Etzel shot of the moment he presented Cook with the gift.(Contributed photo)

After learning that one of his favorite teachers was color blind, Franklin Middle School student Crue Etzel devised a plan to help the teacher see all the hues the world has to offer.

The plan began two months ago when Etzel discovered corrective lenses that help color blind people see the colors they've lost.

"I don't know, he's like in his 50s and he hasn't ever seen color," Etzel said of seventh-grade geography teacher Patrick Cook.

With his goal in mind, Etzel, who is 13, began an extensive research project.

"I just researched the different types of glasses," Etzel shrugged.

Etzel's mother, Kara Etzel-Daniels, said her son not only researched the differences between types of corrective lenses, but he interviewed Cook to see where and how he would be spending most of his time this summer.

Etzel even emailed Cook an online color blind test to see what type of lenses would be optimal for Cook's vision.

"I'm so proud, I hope you understand what a great thing this is," Etzel-Daniels told her son, who blushed and focused on the rubber ball in his hands.

After his initial research was complete, Etzel said he found the glasses he wanted to buy and set up an online fundraiser, all without telling anyone about his plan.

"I kind of wished he'd discussed it with me first," Etzel-Daniels laughed, saying she only learned of her son's crusade when he shared the fundraiser with her on social media and asked her to share it with others.

After the initial shock, Etzel-Daniels said she was proud of what her son had set out to do.

"I thought it was a pretty selfless thing for a 13-year-old to want to do," she said.

That pride then turned into awe once she saw donations begin to pour in.

"I didn't think it would go beyond family donating," said Etzel-Daniels. But several non-family members donated, and some of Cook's former students contributed to the cause as well.

"Whatever he's doing (as a teacher,) it's working," Etzel-Daniels said of Cook.

Etzel-Daniels said the family had been wary of Cook at first, recalling a time when his class had been deemed "unpassable", according to rumors Etzel brought home to her.

"Crue was really apprehensive about it...he kept saying no one gets an A in (Cook's) class," Etzel-Daniels said.

As the year went on, however, Etzel discovered a liking for both the subject and the teacher.

"He teaches a subject I like and, I don't know, he's just really funny," Etzel said.

As the end of the school year approached, Etzel's fundraiser reached its $325 goal and the glasses were ordered.

"We were kind of panicking," Etzel-Daniels said, noting the last day of school was approaching faster than the glasses were.

The glasses arrived just in time, and two days before the end of Etzel's seventh-grade year, he gave Cook a pair of the corrective sunglasses.

"I was flabbergasted," Cook said of the gift.

Etzel said he "felt like getting emotional" from the moment Cook put on the glasses, but he held it together enough to ask Cook questions and quiz him on certain colors, all while taking a video of the occasion.

"He put the glasses on and was just like 'oh my,' but I could tell he was happy," Etzel said.

Having been only able to see shades of red, yellow and gray his entire life, Cook said certain colors, like red, were immediately more vibrant than they had been before.

"The other colors took a little bit of time to come in," Cook said.

In Etzel's video, Cook was gesturing wildly as he looked around his own classroom, which was adorned with flags of the world. Off camera, someone handed Cook an orange balloon that he took gently.

"I've never seen orange before," he said.

Several things capture Cook's eye over the course of the video, like the green of the trees and classroom items, all looked upon with an expression of awe.

"I never want to take them off," Cook said in the video.

Since that day, Cook has taken the glasses off but not for very long.

He said the glasses are a "heartfelt gift" and a reminder of how "I learn more from my students than they learn from me."

"(Crue) is a good student, just a great kid," Cook said. "It's amazing how kindness is still present in our society, even in little ways. This was just one of those little ways that turned into a big way."