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Charter school math teacher gives lesson on how to really help student in need

Teacher provides stable home to help with medical care
Posted at 7:20 PM, May 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-17 13:29:57-04

(UPDATE July 17 | 11 a.m.) — After receiving more than $80,000 to help his foster child get a new kidney, AXL Academy teacher Finn Lanning is educating the public on how to become a living kidney donor.

He says the best way to start is to visit, select "Living Kidney Donor" and fill in the information boxes. Those interested in helping his foster child, 13-year-old Damien, can write "Damien" in the line for the first name, "Children's Hospital" in the line for last name and should leave the birth date box blank.

Lanning said any extra funds raised for Damien will be established in a trust to help secure the boy's education and any future medical expenses.


(UPDATE May 30 | 10 a.m.) — Donors were able to raise more than $32,900 in five days for AXL Academy teacher Finn Lanning and 13-year-old Damien. Damien's kidneys are failing and his teacher, Lanning, decided to become his foster parent to help. Their story is below.

To help, visit the verified GoFundMe page here:


AURORA, Colo. — An instructor at AXL Academy in Aurora is going the extra mile to help a student in need.

Finn Lanning is doing more than just teach math. He's in the process of becoming a parent to a 13-yearold student named Damien.

The 7th & 8th grade math teacher said he made that decision because Damien needs a new kidney.

"It's challenging as a teacher to show up and do everything you can for your students," he said, "but when one of those students is dealing with something exceptional, it's hard to look the other way."

Lanning told Denver7 that in order for Damien to have access to a new kidney, he needs a stable housing environment.

He's been in foster care, moving from home to home.

"It's difficult for a typical 13 year old in foster care to find a place to call a permanent home, and it's especially difficult for a kid with exceptional medical needs," Lanning said. "By providing a home to Damien, it allows him to access the medical treatment he needs to live."

The math teacher said Damien was born with a kidney disease, caused by an autoimmune disorder.

The 7th grader uses a CPAP machine to help with sleep apnea, and a dialysis machine to clean his blood every night.

"It's kind of draining because I get tired," Damien said.

When asked what it's like living with his teacher, the 13-year old replied, "It's pretty cool. I get picked on at school, because it's like, 'Oh, it's your math teacher, that's really weird,' but I've got my own math tutor."

Lanning said becoming an instant parent has been "a wild ride."

"It's a 24-hour commitment," he said. "It's been exhausting and wonderful, and maybe the hardest thing I've ever done."

Damien said he's adjusting very well to his new environment.

"In foster care you jump from house to house, and that's kind of hard because you usually only have a bag full of clothes, but here, I have a good amount of clothes and my own stuff and my own room," he said.

A kidney call awaits

Earlier this week, Damien received a call that a new kidney was available.

Lanning said they got up early, went to the hospital and prepared Damien for surgery, only to find out that the donor kidney was damaged and had a clot.

"It was a difficult circumstance," he said.

Lanning said they're recovering from the disappointment and are excitedly waiting for the next call.

In the meantime, they're busy moving to a new, larger apartment.

They've set up Damien's medical equipment in his new room and are awaiting the arrival of furniture.

A desire for junk food

Because of his kidney disease, Damien is on a restrictive diet.

He said once he gets a new kidney, he plans to add junk food to his menu, specifically, "7-Eleven nachos."

"I want to eat a lot of junk food," he said.


Lanning said because Damien is in the foster care system, Medicaid covers his medical care.

"As we move toward adoption, his ability to access that could become more difficult," Lanning said.

The teacher added that the county hasn't been able to provide any financial assistance, so he has exhausted his savings paying for Damien's supplies and special diet needs.

Lanning set up a GoFundMe account to help with expenses and future needs.

"I'd like to provide some opportunities for him," he said. "He's missed out on a lot of things in his life because of the struggles and challenges that he's faced. He has big dreams. He wants to be a chef and he wants to travel and do the kinds of things that he hasn't been able to do, so I'd love to be able to provide him some opportunities that other kids have."