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Teacher helps send West Allis third grader to see his dad home from deployment

WEST ALLIS, Wis. (CBS 58) -- A Thanksgiving surprise for a third-grade student in West Allis.

Until November, 9-year-old Malachi hadn’t seen his dad in over a year. Paul Rendell is in the Army.

“It’s tough,” said Rendell. “This deployment was actually kind of rough because the service where I was at was terrible for any video calls.”

That’s how the two communicate when he’s at home in Colorado. Malachi lives with his mom in Milwaukee.

“It’s just hard to go without him, and my stepmom and my sister,” said Malachi.

Rendell came home in November, the week before Thanksgiving. Malachi couldn’t be there, so his stepmom live-streamed a special ceremony for him. Malachi and his teacher watched on a computer at school.

It was the first ceremony for servicemen coming home Megan Cerbins had ever seen.

“It really touched me.”

Malachi was happy to know his dad was safe, but a computer screen isn’t the same as seeing him in person.

“As a teacher, we kind of hone in to the needs of our kids, and I noticed it really was affecting him significantly,” said Cerbins. “He was worried, sad, frustrated. So, Thanksgiving was coming up, and I thought, ‘let’s do this. Let’s raise this money to get this boy to go see his dad.”

Cerbins started a “GoFundMe” to send Malachi and his mom to Colorado for Thanksgiving. They only had one week to raise $1,000. Flight prices had skyrocketed because of the holiday.

“Some other teachers here, myself, some of his family members donated, a lot of my friends from my hometown.”

Cerbins hit her goal with less than a day to spare.

“It was just the most incredible feeling ever.”

She broke the news to Malachi and his dad via Skype, in front of the whole class.

“He put his head down right away,” said Malachi’s mom, Samantha Carter. “The entire class was cheering. I was balling my eyes out. His dad was speechless.”

“I was like, oh this must be a joke,” said Malachi.

But it was no joke. Malachi and his mom flew out the next day to spend a long weekend with his dad and family in Colorado. It was their first Thanksgiving together ever.

While most of the time was spent relaxing, it was normalcy that meant more to this family than anything else.

“It’s about him and his dad,” said Carter. “The fact that people loved and cared about him so much to get him out there, I was blown away. I was blown away.”

And so was Malachi, who won’t soon forget his teacher’s selfless, good deed.

“I gave my teacher a big hug after that happened. None of my teachers did that for me before, and she, that actually showed me that she cares about me.”

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