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Coupeville Elementary School students honored for helping breast cancer fight

Students participating in a breast cancer club were recognized for their efforts raising money. From right are Daniel Olson, Lily Zustiak, Knight Arndt, Brooke Ausman, Coral Caveness, Nicole Sipes and Lilly-Ann Tornensis. They were recognized by the Small Miracles Coupeville Medical Support Fund.  - Nathan Whalen photo
Students participating in a breast cancer club were recognized for their efforts raising money. From right are Daniel Olson, Lily Zustiak, Knight Arndt, Brooke Ausman, Coral Caveness, Nicole Sipes and Lilly-Ann Tornensis. They were recognized by the Small Miracles Coupeville Medical Support Fund.
— image credit: Nathan Whalen photo

During a tearful ceremony Thursday afternoon, seven fifth-graders were honored for their efforts raising money for a parent who’s battling cancer.

The Coupeville Elementary School students, who participate in a breast cancer club formed this school year, spent part of last fall collecting money to support Heather Ausman, who is fighting stage four breast cancer.

Her daughter, Brooke, along with Knight Arndt, Coral Caveness, Daniel Olson, Nicole Sipes, Lilly-Ann Tornesnsis and Lily Zustiak, placed collection jars around the island to raise money to help pay for the medical expenses the Ausmans have incurred while Heather receives treatment.

“How proud can you be as a parent to have such a strong child,” Heather Ausman said while hugging Brooke as the group was recognized by the Small Miracles Coupeville Medical Support Fund, a small nonprofit group dedicating to helping Central Whidbey residents who need assistance paying for their medical bills.

The recognition the group received Jan. 30 came as a surprise as the three fifth-grade classes at the elementary school filed into the library. Some were curious about why they were there.

Joining them were the board members from Small Miracles led by board member Vern Olsen.

“We are here today to honor seven Coupeville Elementary students who, on their own, decided to make this a better world by helping a friend’s mother, who had been diagnosed with breast cancer and had many medical bills to pay,” Olsen said.

Olsen, who is also the director of the Shifty Sailors, had his accordion in hand and led the students in several songs, including “Good Morning To All” and “This Land is Your Land.”

The group of students received certificates for their fundraising. Overcome with emotion, several students started crying and hugging each other along with Heather too.

The students started dispersing donation jars in October, which was Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Donation jars were scattered throughout such places as Hallmark, 3 Sisters Beef, Flyers Restaurant and Brewery and New Image Salon.

In addition to the shoppers willing to drop some change for the cause, Heather Ausman highlighted the support her family has received from local churches and the community as she has gone through treatment throughout the majority of 2013.

“People have really stepped forward for our family,” Ausman said. She said residents have consistently delivered meals while she goes through treatment and local businesses have donated food too.

“It’s like a second family,” Ausman said of the community whose supported her over the years.

Small Miracles is a nonprofit group ran by an 11-member board comprised by doctors, nurses, counselors and teachers.

Olsen said during the presentation that Small Miracles started in 2006. The small group of volunteers raise money to help folks offset significant medical expenses, such has hospital bills, prescription costs and dental bills.

The all-volunteer group has doled out $80,000 worth of assistance to nearly 60 people over the years. Last year, they collected $16,000.

Olsen said Small Miracles could work on a special project with the cancer club members.

Organizers conduct a fundraiser each February by sending a letter to donors. Small Miracles member Linda Boling said members are trying to increase Small Miracle’s visibility on Whidbey Island so they can serve more people.

For more information about the Small Miracles Coupeville Medical Support Fund, call 360-672-5651 or write to PO Box 912, Coupeville, WA 98239.

 

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