Executive In-Depth Editor
Cross Country coach Pete Wintermute’s friends, Bill and Jackie Babiarz, were the first of their friends to have a child, Cammy. A short while after Cammy was born, Wintermute’s son, Bobby, was born.
After about a year of watching both Cammy and Bobby grow up together, Bobby was passing Cammy up on major milestones like walking. The Babiarz family became concerned because younger children from other families were also passing Cammy up.
Cammy went through tests and was diagnosed with Rett Syndrome, a rare neurological disease that occurs mainly in girls. It is not inherited and leads to severe impairments that have a huge impact on every area of the child’s life. According to WebMD, Rett Syndrome is a severe form of autism. It affects a child’s ability to walk, sleep, eat and breathe, according to Rettsyndrome.org.
The Babiarz family created Cammy Can, an organization that raises awareness and money for Rett Syndrome. Since 2010, girls’ cross country has sold t-shirts and raised awareness for Rett Syndrome at the Prospect Prance, an event where children ranging from toddlers to eighth graders are able to come out and race.
“The Prospect Prance was originally created just to give kids an opportunity to come out and showcase their young and energetic bodies, and from there it’s just kind of taken off. Adding an awareness campaign to it has made it a bigger thing,” Wintermute said. “I think it teaches the girls a lot about what it takes to give back. Sometimes it’s a small contribution, and it’s just giving up a little time. That makes a huge difference in the lives of these kids.”
Junior Clare Nolan has volunteered at the Prospect Prance since she joined the cross country team freshman year. During the event, Nolan helps by timing and handing out awards at the end. Nolan did not know what Rett Syndrome was until she participated in this fundraiser, which is why she thinks getting the word out there is so important.
“We see how this impacts Wintermute especially because he’s family friends with Cammy’s family,” Nolan said. “We just kind of pulled together and realized ‘OK, we’re working together not only as a team, but for a cause greater than us.”
Walmart toy drive
Spanish club students wait at Walmart early in the morning in December for underprivileged children to arrive. Once the children arrive, they are divided into two lines: the English speaking line and the Spanish speaking line.
According to Spanish teacher Ryan Schultz, having someone who knows Spanish is very comforting to the children.
“A lot of them are not comfortable being away from their parents,” Schultz said. “When you are a young child and speak another language, it’s very comforting to have someone around you that can at least understand what you’re saying and be able to communicate [with] you while you’re walking around the store.”
This is why Service club and Spanish club teamed up to make this event possible in 2011, and they have participated in it ever since.
The event is funded by the Woodfield Area Community Organization (WACO). At Walmart, each of the children is provided with a certain amount of money, and they buy items that either the family or child needs, like clothes. The students help them pick out these items and wrap them. According to Schultz, this is many of the children’s only Christmas.
Senior Carly Bergman participated in the event last year. Bergman’s favorite part of the event was helping pick out clothes for the child she was with.
“I felt like a mom,” Bergman said. “It was like going on a shopping spree and having fun with it, and the look on his face just made everything so much better.”
Schultz believes this is one of the best service club events.
“Those kids walk away with the biggest smile on their face,” Schultz said. “I think they feel like they’ve made a new connection [with] somebody [who] helped them out and is looking out for them. [For] our kids, I will venture to say [that] it is the most rewarding experience they have while they are working with anything related to Spanish Club.”