By Nikki Jamieson
Sunny South News
Students at R.I Baker Middle school are honouring a late friend by helping the families of sick kids.
When R.I. Baker student Michael Van Liere passed away this passed September after being diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor, his fellow students wanted to do something in his memory, and so the Michael Project was born.
“He was a really fun guy. We all knew him and loved him as a friend,” said Amara Klassen, a grade 8 student and member of the Student Leadership Council.
Spearheaded by the Student Leadership Council, the school began fundraising to make a donation to the Ronald McDonald House.
“The Ronald McDonald House helps people when they have children or family members who are diagnosed with cancer or other diseases and need to be at the hospital a lot,” said Dallas Hale, a grade 8 student and member of the Student Leadership Council. “It helps with like accommodations, like houses and food, so they could like be with their family members, instead of having to drive back and forth everyday or having to pay the expenses of hotels and everything.”
Michael’s family had utilized the Ronald McDonald House during the course of his illness. With another RIB student having to utilize the same service now as well, the cause became dear to the students, and they wanted to show their support for the family.
“We didn’t want any, like Michael’s parents, anyone in the school, to feel like they’re alone with going through this, because we’re all connected by this in a way,” said Caitlyn Sparrow, a grade 8 student and member of the Student Leadership Council. “It was important for us that there was a means of closure and everyone knew that everyone was behind them, that we really weren’t different in that way.”
“With putting on the Michael Project, it was almost as a means for them to pay respect,” said Carrie Netzel, a teacher at RIB and a SLC staff member, adding that many staff and student were unable to attend Michael’s funeral.
The SLC raised fund through two avenues. The first was by selling t-shirts, specially designed with a bear on the front to represent the school, and on the back there is an image of a snowboarder with the letters MVL. The second avenue was selling canteen items.
“(Michael) liked to snowboard a lot, and he was looking forward to returning to the school to go on the ski trip that we have annually,” said Dawn Berry-Furtado, a teacher at RIB and a SLC staff member. “That is the sort of memorial piece to the t-shirt, so the kids feel that they will be keeping Michael in their memory.”
The original goal of the project was to raise $500-1,000 to donate to the Ronald McDonald House. However, they were able to raise $2,500 — more then double their goal.
“We actually had a goal in mind for the Michael Project, and that was probably around $500 to $1,000,” said Netzel. “But we blew that out of the water.”
On Friday, Dec. 15, during their end of year assembly, the SLC presented Michael’s parents, Peter and Camelia Van Liere, with the cheque in their name. Speaking during the assembly, Peter thanked the school for the donations, noting during the four and a half months of Michael’s treatments in Calgary, the Ronald McDonald House was, although not home, “the closest thing you can have when you’re that far away from home”.
“This is just totally incredible. We are not only humbled, but honoured at the same time that all the staff and student at R.I. Baker school have kept the memory of Michael alive,” said Peter. “We’re really thankful to the Ronald McDonald House and what they’ve done for us.
“We’re so grateful that you were able to come up and raise that kind of money, it’s just incredible. Thank you so much again for keeping Michael’s memory alive.”