Obishikokaang Elementary School fundraising for family in need
Mike Lawrence - Staff Writer
An online auction to raise funds for a community family has been created by staff at Obishikokaang Elementary School (OES) in Frenchman’s Head, Lac Seul First Nation. The OES Fundraiser for Rylie and Gen is in support of Genevieve Wesley who is currently staying in Toronto with her daughter Rylie who is receiving medical treatment for Blastomycosis.
The fundraiser is being spearheaded by Caitlyn Lorentz, SERT (Special Education Resource Teacher) and Vice-Principal of Obishikokaang Elementary School. As Lorentz shared, the idea stemmed from a desire to do more for the family after it became obvious they were going to need to be away from home longer than expected. Lorentz explained that this is the second fundraiser the school has instituted to help the family, stating, “Before Christmas the Lac Seul Education Authority did a raffle, so I thought it would be helpful to try again and raise some more money as it sounded like they were going to be down there for longer than initially anticipated. Riley was a student at OES, so a lot of our staff know her. Two of her siblings go to school at our school currently so we just felt the need to help our extended school family out.” After speaking with OES Principal Kristin Ward, the decision was made to try an online auction through Facebook.
“I had reached out to Kristin (Ward) and said, ‘It sounds like they are going to be down there for a while, I just finished talking to Riley’s mom’, so Kristin and I started brainstorming different ways that we could fundraise, and we decided on a Facebook auction. I kind of hit the ground running with planning and organizing,” Lorentz added. Not quite sure what to expect, Lorentz began to solicit for donations, stating, “I didn’t have any expectations going into it. I figured whatever comes out of it would be helpful, so I initially reached out to our school staff to see if they would have any items to donate. Then I wrote up a little letter to hand out to local businesses. The staff helped me out as well with reaching out to businesses so that was really helpful as well.”
The response took Lorentz by surprise. “There were definitely a number of individuals that have donated out of their own personal time, too, but we got some donations from Al’s Sports, Fresh Market Foods, Good News Books. Mahkwa Lodge is probably our biggest donator, which was very overwhelming for me, I was so grateful. Lac Suel Resort, Golden Eagle Convenience in Frenchman’s Head and Rosiak Carpentry donated as well. We actually had to start the auction early as we had over 40 donated items that needed to be posted.” Lorentz continued, “Mahkwa donated an all-inclusive weekend to their lodge for two people, that’s currently on the page for bidding. Rosiak Carpentry donated a skidoo toboggan, which includes a bumper hookup and an ice fishing hut. We’ve had a number of locals donate handmade moccasins and beaded earrings, and one of our staff is an artist and potter so she donated some of her pottery for us to post as well.”
As Rylie’s mother, Genevieve Wesley explained, their stay in Toronto may become a long one, stating, “I want all my kids here, then we’re going to start looking for an apartment. I think the social worker here in Toronto is going to help me get a place where I can stay with my kids, because they think maybe six months to a year maybe, they don’t really know. They know that her lungs are in bad shape, and it will be a long-term thing to try and help her.” Wesley went on to add, “There’s been multiple people making donations, and it’s been very helpful and overwhelming that there’s so much people who care about me and my daughter and my family.” Wesley is hopeful that with enough support, she can bring her children to stay with her while Rylie is in care, explaining, “I need my kids here too, they need their mother, I’m a single parent. I have my brother, my sister, and my parents here, and my youngest daughter for now. They don’t want to go home until they see some positive changes (in Rylie’s condition).”
For those wishing to assist the Wesley’s through this difficult time, the auction can be found at https://www.facebook.com/oessupportsrylie/. The auction will wrap up on January 28, with the individual auction endings staggered throughout the day.