‘The light of the world’: Fourth Grader known for courage and hugs

Savannah Vasquez
School Resource Officer Sonya Shepard gets a birthday hug from Kriseya Wheeler.

Ten-year-old Kriseya Wheeler walked into Destin Elementary School last week and the faculty and students alike couldn’t hold back the joy of seeing her. Her friends in Cindy Huggin’s fourth grade class were so elated that they came rushing over for hugs. Hugs are what Kriseya has become known for; hugs, courage and an unceasingly positive attitude.  

“She’s just one of those little girls,” said Huggins, Kriseya’s former homeroom teacher. “She’s like a light bulb when she comes in, she’s really creative and enthusiastic. When Kriseya is here everyone gets hugs and high fives and then we can get class started.”

In January, Kriseya was diagnosed with a brain tumor called thalamic astrocytoma. The tumor was causing her constant nausea as well as hindering weight gain, and had to be treated quickly. Now, because of recurring chemotherapy treatments and subsequent recovery time, she has been pulled out of public school and learns from home, but her teachers always invite her back for special events and projects. Firday, she joined Huggins’ science class to dissect owl pellets.

“My favorite subject is science with Mrs. Huggins because there is a whole lot of stuff that goes into it,” said Kriseya. “It takes math and reading, and it’s just fun to learn about how the world works.”

Outside of school Kriseya said she really enjoys reading, sketching and spending time with her farm animals.

“I love sketching realistic animals and landscapes,” she said. “I like to put on my music while I sketch because it helps me calm down and release all the stress.”

When asked her favorite music, Kriseya said, “Third Eye Blind hands down, and after that any ‘90s music.”

As for her animals, Kriseya said her family’s farm in Freeport is home to more than 40 goats, multiple chickens, a donkey, and her favorite pet pig Dixie.

“She follows me around and we call her the love pig,” said Kriseya.

For all of her charisma, courage and genuine kindheartedness, Huggins recently nominated Kriseya as Cox Communication’s Hero of the Year for DES. Kriseya was recognized at a ceremony held at Northwest Florida State College in Niceville along with students from several other area schools.

“I nominated her because she is going through a lot for a 10-year-old girl,” said Huggins. “And because she is just the light of the world in this school.”

Kriseya told The Log that she feels blessed and honored to have been chosen as the recipient, and she added that she hopes her story will encourage other kids with health struggles to keep going.

“I would tell them what I’ve been through and how I got through it,” she said. “And that was the Lord Jesus Christ; He made sure that I stayed safe throughout the whole time.”

Although she can often sound much older and wiser than her age, Kriseya is just like any other kid when it comes to new school jitters. When asked her thoughts on her graduation to Destin Middle School in the fall she replied, “I’m really excited, a bit nervous about getting to school on time and opening my locker, but other than that I’m excited.”

To find out more or to donate to Kriseya’s treatments visit her Go Fund Me site at www.gofundme.com/TeamKriseya.