GTPulse: Traverse City West Students Spread Happiness With Munson Donation

There’s no denying that 2020 has been a year of pain and unrest. In times of trouble, it can be difficult to know what the best thing to do or say is when people are suffering. Hailey LaBonte and Olivia Stoerkel are Traverse City West High School students who found a unique and sweet way to contribute to Munson’s COVID-19 fund during their time in quarantine. 

Hailey and Olivia have been friends since middle school when they were on student council together. They’re going into their senior year of school this fall and though some students may have been happy to have this academic year cut short, that wasn’t a feeling Hailey and Olivia shared.

“My mom is actually a teacher so we worked to set up a schedule and try to make it as normal as possible so we could get work done,” Hailey said.

“I like school a lot. I definitely like the social aspect of it, but I also like the structure it provides, having something to do during the day and not just sitting at home. It definitely was an adjustment.”

Going from seeing friends every day to not being able to physically see them at all was a tough transition. Hailey and Olivia found ways to stay connected. 

“I was doing some arts and crafts around the house, making bracelets and painting rocks. I decided to bake Olivia some muffins and bring her a rock or two, just to show her what I’m doing and giving her something to look forward to in her day.”

Olivia enjoyed the rock so much that she thought it could be something they both could do, and also a way to give back to their community.

“It was so cool and it was so beautiful, so I texted her and said, ‘what if we painted a bunch of these and sold them and donated the money to Munson?’”

Because of quarantine, they couldn’t work on the project together. So although it was shared, they worked separately. Being separate didn’t stop either of them from enjoying the work, however.

“I went out to Leland the most and just walked along Vans Beach with my family and I think Olivia did the same thing with her family. We just tried to find the most flat rocks that would be the easiest to paint,” Hailey said.

“It was a nice hobby because we knew we were doing something good for the community and that was good for my mental health. I struggled with not being able to see anybody and being able to paint was very therapeutic,” Olivia said.

They advertised the rocks through Facebook to family and friends and explained that they were doing it to collect donations for Munson and got an overwhelming response.

“I posted something about it on Facebook around 10 at night. I woke up and I have like 40 text messages and a bunch of people had shared the post, it was crazy.”

So, they both got to work. Their evenings in quarantine were spent at home with rocks and paint spread out all over the dining room table. Some of the rocks were ideas of their own, and some were custom requests.

“We had a lot of people request different ones for different people in their family. I had a friend and his mom wanted one for his sister who was a nurse so we did a red cross symbol. His dad wanted a chocolate chip cookie and his mom wanted a nice quote, and he wanted a baseball. So, that was cool to be able to see the different characteristics of each family.”

Rocks were dropped off by either Olivia or Hailey on donators’ porches. Money was either sent online or left on the porch to ensure everything was contactless.

After raising over $700, Olivia started to think about when they would stop and donate the money. One more Facebook post was made before closing commissions for the rocks.

“After about a month we were at like $700 dollars and we both thought that was a decent chunk of money. But, we reposted again one more time on Facebook and we had a bunch more people ask. We also had people from our school ask so that was cool that people our age wanted to participate and help. But, after a while, we had to cut it off. Rocks were all over the place at our houses.”

They had raised over $1200 in just a month and a half. Not only did they provide a donation for Munson during a pandemic, but they were also able to engage community members and give them away to give back too. The feeling was not lost on either of them.

“Staying home was helping the community, but that sometimes felt like we weren’t doing anything to help. Donating money actually made us feel like we were making a difference and doing something to help,” Hailey said.

“It was a really good experience,” Olivia said. “Happy tears were shed.”

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Categories: GTPulse