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High school students put on benefit for child with Muscular Dystrophy

Sawyer Joachim, a 9-year-old student at Starr Elementary, was diagnosed with Duchenne’s Muscular Dystrophy in August of 2008. To help raise the money he needs for a new electric wheelchair, students at New Richmond High School are hosting a benefit in his name on Saturday, Dec. 7, from 3-7 p.m. (Submitted photo)

In August of 2008, Sawyer Joachim, a 9-year-old Starr Elementary student, was diagnosed with Duchenne’s Muscular Dystrophy, a disease which erodes a person’s muscles until they are unable to walk.

“At 12-months old, Sawyer wasn’t walking or even crawling, so we thought something might be wrong, but it wasn’t until 2008 before he was diagnosed,” said Sawyer’s mother, Brenna Joachim. “We have been taking Sawyer to Columbus, Ohio since the fall of 2010 for treatments in a special clinical trial that he was a match for."

In an effort to help Sawyer and his family, Marc Neumann’s Communicating as Active Citizens class at New Richmond High School decided to organize a spaghetti dinner/silent auction benefit for Sawyer on Saturday, Dec. 7, from 3-7 p.m. in the high school cafeteria. Money raised at the benefit will go toward a new electric wheelchair for Sawyer, which costs $11,000.

“Part of the class is where we study communications and the active citizens part,” Neumann said. “Rather than just do English, we try to apply what we have learned and do some sort of student-led project every single year.”

In the past, Neumann’s classes have raised money for the troops, helped out a classmate who had cancer and many other projects as well. This year, the students decided they would organize a benefit for Sawyer to help raise the $11,000 needed to buy an electric wheelchair.

“It was touching to hear about it because it is a kid in our community and that hit home since we are a small town,” New Richmond High School senior Tanner Berg said. “We decided that we would make this young man’s life easier, especially since he enjoys so many moving activities.”

The idea for the benefit was suggested by Sawyer’s cousin, Skylyn Joachim, who is in Neumann’s Communicating as Active Citizens class, and from there it was a matter of the class putting together all the different parts of the benefit to help raise money for Sawyer.

“The kids brainstormed different things to help raise money and started with those,” Neumann said. “From there, we talked about what our goals and visions were for the project and thought ‘Why can’t we raise the money he needs?’ It grew into the kids deciding to have a benefit for Sawyer. They have planned everything.”

According to Joachim, Skylyn has always had a passion to try and help her cousin any way she can. The family had talked about the possibility of holding a benefit for Sawyer in the past, but they never had the resources to put one together.

“We are so thankful to Skylyn for putting this together and bringing it to the attention of her class,” Joachim said. “She came to us when she heard about the project in her class and asked if she could tell them about Sawyer to see if they were interested in helping out with the costs. When we heard that the class had decided to help Sawyer we were ecstatic.”

In order to teach his students what it would take to organize a benefit, Neumann brought in different community members to talk with the students about what things would, cost as well as how much food it would take to feed all the people who come to support Sawyer.

“We had the school cook come in and talk about portions and how much meals would cost,” Neumann said.

The students in Neumann’s two Communicating as Active Citizens classes, which is geared toward students who are planning on taking the technical school track, have helped plan the whole event, including how much food to bring, where the event will be held and getting the word out about the benefit by flyer and word of mouth.

“We’ve talked during class and run out to different businesses to try and get donations and items for the silent auction to try and raise as much funds as possible,” Berg said. “Lately, we’ve been talking more about the menu items and been getting into more of the organizing of the benefit than trying to raise money.”

Not only have the students in Neumann’s class been organizing the event, but they have also been publicizing it as well by going door-to-door to area businesses to ask for donations.

“Once we made that decision, we went out with a stack of flyers to all the businesses and they offered to hang up the flyers in their business to get the word out to the community,” New Richmond senior Jake Rose said. “For us, the planning was the hardest part because we had to decide what to make and how much to make of it.”

With Sawyers condition, he has been able to do less and less of the normal things he loves to do in the outdoors, Joachim said. More than anything else, a new electric wheelchair would give Sawyer the freedom to do things on his own, as well as get around more easily than before.

“If he wants to go do something outside, either I or my husband have to pull him in a wagon or push him in his regular wheelchair,” Joachim said. “He loves to be outside and do stuff with his peers, but he can’t keep up with them and he doesn’t always want his parents around when he is with his friends. So an electric wheelchair would give him his independence and allow him to do the things he loves to do in the outdoors.”

After taking care of all the little details to put together the benefit, the students in Neumann’s classes have learned that the real world isn’t always as easy to navigate as one would like to think.

“One of the challenges about putting together the benefit has been trying to predict who all is going to be there,” Berg said. “We are trying to accommodate for all the food we need, but we don’t want to over do it because that would take away from the money we are trying to raise.”

One of the other outlets for the students to get the word out about the benefit comes in a not so obvious place.

“The day we are doing the benefit, there is a [boy’s varsity] hockey game and we are going to have an announcement there about the benefit,” senior Trish Hare said.

The game starts at 2 p.m. and sees the Tigers take on Superior at the New Richmond Sports Center.

For more information, please contact Mark Neumann at Neumann also set up an account for Sawyer through Westconsin Credit Union, so all donations can be made to: The Sawyer Project.

“It has been really fun to see how different kids have step up for different areas,” Neumann said. “We have pretty much 100 percent participation. Everybody has gone around to businesses and gotten donations. They’ve all been involved in the planning process and they have learned how to work with each other as well as learn proper business etiquette through it all.”

Jordan Willi
Jordan Willi is a reporter for the New Richmond News. Previously, he worked as a sports reporter at the Worthington Daily Globe in Worthington, Minnesota. He also interned at the Hudson Star Observer for two summers and contributed to the Bison Illustrated sports magazine at North Dakota State University.
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