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Each year MASA regions present their own Champion for Children Award to an outstanding member of their community who has had a positive impact on education in their region. This year’s recipients have made a significant contribution to Michigan’s youth, and we salute them.
Congratulations to this year’s Regional Champions for Children (click name to read details).
In 1979, four ladies from the Manton High School Class of 1933 organized and paid for the first Manton Alumni Banquet. The two nominees are still living and were preceded in death by Thelma Sprague and Hilda O'Brien-Quy. They suggested that instead of having several class reunions that there should be one reunion on the weekend of the Harvest Festival in Manton. Their idea was to give special honor to the class that graduated 50 years prior. From that initial reunion in 1979, the Manton Alumni Association has grown to an event that is annually attended by 200-300 people on the Saturday prior to Labor Day.
The Gilmore Car Museum and staff were recognized for the children's programming they provide to many students in the region. The museum’s education programs for K-12 students cover a variety of topics including automotive history, technology and innovation, artistic design, and contributions to society. Many of these programs meet the benchmarks for specific categories found in the Michigan Merit Curriculum. In addition to K-12 programs, they offer Early Childhood Education programs designed to provide pre-school children with a variety of touch, sight and sound opportunities.
Kim was recognized for her dedication to students, which extends to staff, parents and community. Gaedeke is described as a true professional who inspires students to be the best that they can be and encourages them to be self sufficient and learn how to problem-solve.
“Kim always has the students’ best interest at heart and will do whatever it takes to help them be successful,” wrote Memphis Middle School Principal Kenneth Reygaert, who nominated Gaedeke for the award. “She is quick to volunteer when needed. She provides counseling and goes above and beyond to make sure students have clothing, school supplies and food to eat.”
Gaedeke’s long list of activities include establishing a clothes closet for students, delivering food baskets to needy families, initiating a lunch workroom for students, attending summer camps with students and fostering a “Friends of Rachel” Club for students promoting kindness on campus. She serves on the District Crisis Response and School Improvement teams while still managing to attend athletic events at both the Junior High and High School.
“I believe that Kim puts her heart and soul into her work,” wrote Reygaert. “[She] has made such a difference in our school.”
Margie Murphy has been an educator for almost 40 years—as an elementary teacher and for the last 15 years as an administrator for Early Care and Education for Van Buren ISD. In over 34 years of working for VBISD, Margie has taken on many “extras” to serve students and their families.
“She never waits for others to ask for help,” said nominator Jeff Mills, superintendent of VBISD. “ Instead she rolls up her sleeves and leads the charge to get the work done.”
Margie annually organizesthe largest “back to school bonanza” in Michigan, which distributes over 1,400 backpacks to children from K-12 grades. Over 30 agencies come to this event so they can meet with parents and children and provide them information regarding their services. Margie also annually on a Saturday arranges for and rides a school bus to Indiana to help pack 300-plus boxes of food so migrant families in need have a Christmas dinner.
In the summer of 2011, she spent many extra hours so at-risk children in Lawrence would have free preschool for the year. In August 2011, in the evenings and on Saturdays, she could be found lugging cribs to cars so child care providers could have safe sleep environments for children in their care.
“We often talk about the ‘hats we wear’ in our jobs,” Mills said. “This woman could be her own millinery shop.”
Richard Helppie Jr. was recognized for his vision, passion and generosity in facilitating the development of the Wayne Memorial High School Champions Program that has changed the building culture, inspired students and that has provided hope, confidence and success for hundreds of students. Helppie is an alumnus of Wayne Memorial High School, a strong supporter of his community and a true philanthropist.
“He has never fogotten from whence he came and is a believer of ‘paying it forward’ and helping all students reach their potential and goals through an appropriate support system,” said Wayne Westland Superintendent Gregory Baracy,who nominated Helppie for the award . “Under his passionate and devoted guidance, the Champions Program of Wayne Memorial High School was born, and it is enhancing the education experiences of students and in many cases changing the lives of students on a daily basis.”
The school-embedded Champion Program bring together students and staff members who "champion" students to success. The student's mentor or "champion" encourages them and provides support over the course of the entire semester. When students meet their goals, they and their families are invited to join their mentors at the champion banquet held at the end of the semester. Mr. Helppie attends every banquet and speaks to the students, who are motivated by Mr. Helppie because of the genuine care he exhibits and the real life example he brings of someone from their community who became an extremely successful adult. Students who meet their goal also receive a $200 award stipend and their name is engraved on a huge trophy. The entire program is funded generous support of Mr. Helppie and his family.