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Illinois boy’s generosity leads to power being restored at Puerto Rican school

RIO GRANDE, Puerto Rico - A little boy from Illinois is being hailed a hero in Puerto Rico.

The kindness of Avery Huddleston, 7, led to a bigger surprise than anyone imagined at a school in the city of Rio Grande, Puerto Rico.

For his seventh birthday, Avery collected school supplies for kids in Puerto Rico instead of asking for gifts for himself.

"It was my birthday. I got people to come and bring school supplies," Avery said.

Ameren workers agreed to deliver his gift.

Fox 2/KPLR 11 traveled to Puerto Rico to follow the progress of the Ameren workers from the St. Louis area who are there restoring power.

The first wave of about 75 workers has been replaced by a second wave after 21 straight days of seemingly round-the-clock work.

Those workers have brought power back to the hardest to reach, most out of the way places. Yet it was in the heart of the Rio Grande where they ended up finding one of the neediest: an elementary school named La Escuela Rafael de Jesus.

It had been without power since Hurricane Irma hit on September 5, 2017. It would likely still be that way but for Avery's gift.

Avery and his first-grade classmates in at TriCity Elementary in Buffalo, Illinois watched the box of supplies being delivered via the Facetime app.

"He's very little, very young, but he has a heart that's very big like Mt. Everest," said school Principal Waleska Collazo.

Avery's gift also led Rio Grande's mayor to donate backpacks to the neediest students. Moreover, it led the Ameren workers who brought the box to look into restoring power at the school.

Though nearly all of the classrooms were dark, they noticed the lights did work in at least a couple of them.

Ameren worker Mike Beardsley traced the problem to damaged transformer connections. He climbed the utility pole, made repairs, and the entire school lit up for the first time in over five months. Students and staff from the classrooms to the cafeteria cheered and danced. It was a joy absent since those terrible hurricanes.

"If it wasn't for one kind gesture by Avery, a little 7-year-old boy, they'd still be sitting in the dark at this school," Beardsley said.

That first wave of Ameren workers restored power to about 2,000 places and returned home this week.

The company has committed to sending at least three waves of St. Louis area workers for three-week assignments.

Ameren is one of the electric companies that are members of the Edison Electric Institute now deploying nearly 1,500 additional restoration workers and support personnel to speed up power restoration in Puerto Rico, increasing the total number of such workers on the ground in Puerto Rico to more than 5,500. It's part of FEMA's relief effort, which now tops $1 billion.