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BEA students raise funds for ill WEM girl

By Staff | Jan 14, 2018

BEA staff member Tami Armstrong and a group of middle school student council members raised money for Maddie Engel.

Seven-year-old Maddie Engel, daughter of two 2002 Blue Earth Area graduates, Nick Engel and Abby Curtiss, has been diagnosed with Burkitt’s Lymphoma and is currently going through the process of chemotherapy.

Maddie is a second grader at Waterville-Elysian-Morristown and one Blue Earth Area teacher came up with a way to get the entire BEA school involved to help out the family.

Travis Armstrong had the idea to have a teddy bear toss, throwing hundreds of stuffed bears for the children’s hospital, during Caitlyn Rorman’s 1,000th point during the BEA Holiday Basketball Tournament. However, Armstrong tweaked the idea to not only help a family that is a little more local, but to get more families involved.

Maddie’s aunt, Angie Curtiss, is a friend and classmate of Armstrong’s. Not only that but Maddie’s grandmother, Pam Curtiss, is also a paraprofessional for Blue Earth Area. Armstrong knew of Maddie and her family’s struggle with the disease from these local connections. It was then he and his wife, Tami, decided to get the?Blue Earth Area Middle School student council involved in the idea.

“I knew we didn’t have enough time between the tournament and when this idea came up to do a teddy bear toss, so I knew Tami had a meeting coming up with the students, so I pitched the idea, and she ran with it,” says Armstrong. “I guess I was kind of the brains and she did all the footwork.”

Well, almost all of the footwork. It was the middle school student council members that gathered information about Maddie and sat at a table during the tournament to collect donations for Maddie’s family.

“The students didn’t want to just sit there and ask for money, they had a fact sheet about Maddie ready to go for anyone who had questions,” says Armstrong. “They were really excited to be able to help someone in need.”

The students manned the table for both days of the basketball tournament, engaging in conversations with parents and families from all over, including United South Central, Granada-Huntley-East-Chain-Martin-Luther, and Jackson County Central.

“It is always good to do good,” says Armstrong. “And it is great for those students to connect with other students and families from other schools in our area, to show that we may be in competition on the court, but we are all a part of the same community who can help a family.”

Armstrong also contacted his friend, Derek Lane, whose wife, Tracey, passed away from cervical cancer a number of years ago. Lane created the Tracey Lane Foundation after his wife’s battle with cancer ended in her passing and has been raising funds for families with cancer ever since. Armstrong asked his friend if the foundation would be willing to match funds for the Engel family, to which Lane gave no hesitation to the idea.

“I figured we would maybe raise $250 to $500, and he said that would be no problem,” said Armstrong.

Little did he know, however, that the BEA middle schoolers would raise just over $1,000 for Maddie. And that did not include the funds raised on the family’s GoFundMe page from the added awareness of the campaign at the tournament.

“I called him and said, ‘hey, so we raised a little more than I thought, you can just donate $500 if you want,’ and Derek was so gung-ho about completing the full $1,000 match,” Armstrong said.

But the great surprise did not end with raising over $500, it did not even end when the Tracey Lane Foundation would give the entire fund match of an added $1,000, but because Derek Lane knew exactly who the donation would be benefitting, he chipped in an added grand to the cause.

“When I got the check in the mail, I was surprised. All in, we raised over $3,000 for the family,” says the BEA biology teacher. “Not only that, but I showed Pam (Maddie’s grandma) the check, and it was amazing to see her response. Tears in her eyes, goosebumps, the whole bit. It was awesome.”

Armstrong says it was not just about the amount of money that was raised, but the amount of people who showed care and compassion for a family they did not even know.

“This desire to help this family came all the way down to our area sixth graders who wanted to help, to show that they care, even if they don’t know who this person is. It just shows how strong our community really is and how great we can work together for a common cause.”