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Seventh-grader Sam Malecek sells candy for the Love for Loenser campaign Friday, Jan. 17, at St. Croix Central Middle School. (Submitted photo)

Campaign raises money for beloved teacher

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If there’s one thing St. Croix Central School District knows how to do, it’s rally around those in need.

Beloved sixth-grade reading/literacy teacher Karen Loenser was diagnosed with liver and bone cancer in mid-December.

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According to Jean Johnson, Loenser’s team-teacher of three years, she was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer five years ago. She had a double mastectomy and went through intensive chemotherapy and radiation.

Johnson said Loenser didn’t feel well before Christmas. When she went in for an appointment, she was told the cancer had returned, metastasizing in her bones and liver. Her last day of school was the Wednesday before holiday break. She is unable to return to her teaching job.

“We’ve worked closely together the last three years,” Johnson said. “She is always upbeat and positive, an advocate for the kids. She’s a genuine, real person.”

Johnson has known Loenser since 2007. She said Loenser began as a special education teacher at St. Croix Central in 2006. Before that, she taught in New York for six years. Loenser began teaching sixth-graders with Johnson (Loenser taught reading, Johnson teaches language arts) in 2011.

Loenser was born and raised in Clear Lake, where she lives now, Johnson said. According to the school website, Loenser earned her bachelor’s degree from the State University of New York-Geneseo in elementary education and special education. She received her Master's from SUNY-Brockport in elementary education curriculum.  She had been working on her reading certification from UW-Stout.

Johnson said the kids miss Loenser and are sad.

“They are resilient,” Johnson said. “They are excited about the fundraising because it’s something they can do in a situation they can’t do anything about.”

St. Croix Central special education paraprofessional Christine Lamberty said she has known Loenser for five years.

“She’s so compassionate,” Lamberty said of Loenser. “She’s so loved. She’s organized, calm and neat. She really loves the kids and with her, it’s a calling, not a job. She wants them to succeed.”

Central students and staff immediately began raising money in their “Love for Loenser” campaign a couple of weeks ago. The money will help provide Loenser and her two children, Gabriella, 13, and Adam, 11, with long-term housing and other financial needs.

“The goal of the Love for Loenser campaign is to relieve some of Karen’s financial burden so she can focus her energy on treatment, healing and her family,” a fundraiser description reads.

The middle-schoolers sold candy after school all last week, Johnson said. “Kandy for Karen” went through seven boxes of candy (30 candies in a box) as of Friday afternoon.

Staff donations have gone to remodeling project gift cards to help with the Loensers’ long-term housing solution.

Middle school staff made puppy chow and sold it for $1 a bag after school. Johnson said almost 200 bags had sold as of last Friday.

The high school plans to host a bake sale during finals week. They are also raffling a $50 Mastercard gift card, a $30 Chipotle gift card and iTunes gift cards, Johnson said.

“Love for Loenser” bracelets are being sold at $3 each. The pale blue bracelets are already visible on many wrists throughout the community.

On Friday, Feb. 27, the girls varsity basketball team hosts Plum City at the high school at 7:30 p.m. for “Coaches vs. Cancer Pink Night.” The money raised through T-shirt sales, raffles and other fundraisers will all go to Loenser, Johnson said.

Volunteer staff is offering babysitting services to area parents on Valentine’s Day from 4:30 to 9 p.m., Friday, Feb. 14, at St. Croix Central Middle School for children up to 11 years old.

The cost is $3 per child per hour, or a $10 per hour family maximum. The price includes dinner and a snack. Caregivers include St. Croix Central staff and their children. Supervised games and activities will be provided.

All proceeds from the event will go to the Love for Loenser campaign. Parents must RSVP by Feb. 10 to Lamberty at lamberty1973@gmail.com, 715-690-5488 or on the Love for Loenser Facebook page at facebook.com/pages/Love-for-Loenser/1394363530817004.

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Sarah Young
Sarah Young joined RiverTown Multimedia in October 2013 as a news reporter for the New Richmond News. She covers primarily Hammond, Roberts and Somerset. Previously she free-lanced for the River Falls Journal, Hudson Star-Observer, RiverTown special publications and the Superior Catholic Herald. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Spanish and French in 2001. She completed a minor in journalism in 2004. Before working at the New Richmond News, she was an assistant manager at Philander's Grill & Bar in Prescott. She lives in Prescott with her husband Mike and daughter Carolina.  
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