By Melanie Yingst
January 23, 2014
Having been in this business for more than five years, I’ve written a lot of fundraiser stories.
For some writers, they are the easiest pieces to write, but for me, I get caught up in the emotion of the story or the cause people are trying to raise money for.
In my earlier years, I’d feel so guilty for not being able to donate money or somehow figure out a way to attend the event.
Later on, I finally came to peace that my contribution was helping spread the word to help these people and their causes through the local paper.
While I’ve done follow-up pieces over the yeras, only a hand full of times had I ever seen a crowd like the one I witnessed last Saturday night.
Last Saturday, despite several inches of snow on the roads, I was assigned to attend the Fletcher Fire Department’s fish fry and fundraiser for the Hawes family.
Colin, a Miami East High School student and his younger sister Katlyn were involved in a horrific car accident with a dump truck on their way to school.
Personally, I don’t know this particular family, but when you live in a small community, you can easily find somebody who knows somebody who knows the family.
It’s kind of like playing “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” but instead it’s called “Three degrees of Miami County” because it doesn’t take long to find a connection in our area.
The day after the accident, I had people from all over text or Facebook message me on the children’s condition.
Miles away, my twin sister Megan texted to ask how they were doing and wanted to know where the accident occurred.
We then talked about all the stupid stunts we pulled when we were in high school in our cars. We even laughed about the time on our way home we almost hit a cow.
Who almost hits a cow on their way home from school? Only us country kids.
Somehow during our four years of high school, only a handful of our friends were in car accidents. It wasn’t until a few years after graduation, one of our friends Jake was involved in a horrific accident with a semi-truck in Lima. He was hospitalized for months and while he has recovered, he still has lingering issues from all the broken bones he suffered.
Feeling helpless, close friends of Jake put together a golf outing to raise money for his family. The money wouldn’t put a dent in Jake’s bills, but it was therapeutic to feel like we could do something. Anything.
Before heading out to the assignment on Saturday, I knew there would a fairly decent crowd.
I just didn’t expect to see cars lined out almost to State Route 589 outside of Fletcher. I didn’t expect the line for the dinner to pack the fire house wall-to-wall, probably violating its own fire code capacity.
Not even the several inches of snow deterred folks from supporting a local family who needed help. It was a sight to see.
While I didn’t stay long, I spoke with kids lining up to get T-shirts and cheerleaders selling cupcakes. It’s tough being that age and feeling helpless, but the spirit of feeling like they were able to contribute was contagious.
The following day, Holly’s Cafe pizza fundraisers ran out of pizza crust well before dinner approached and with several hours left for the special event. I tried calling the restaurant several times and the line was busy every time I made an attempt.
I was not able to interview a local restaurant owner because the phone was ringing off the hook from people wanting to help a family.
What a great problem to have as a journalist.
I wish the Hawes family the best in their recovery.
And when times gets tough, just know there’s an entire community cheering you on every step of the way on your road to recovery.
“Twin” Melanie Yingst appears on Fridays in the Troy Daily News.