A day to remember, give back

COTTONWOOD – At 3:30 p.m. on Feb. 19, 2008, a Lakeview School school bus was traveling north of Cottonwood, bringing students home. Six minutes later, as the bus reached an intersection, it was broadsided by a minivan that had blown through a stop sign.

The impact caused the school bus to hit another vehicle and then tip over, with 28 elementary and middle school students and the driver on board. As a result of the crash, 16 of the student passengers were injured and four were killed – Emilee Olson, Reed Stevens and brothers Hunter and Jesse Javens.

Lakeview students commemorate their memory every year by doing service projects, which will help others in the Cottonwood/Wood Lake community while continuing on the journey toward healing.

This year, Traci Olson, who teaches early childhood special education at Lakeview, and who is Emilee’s mother, has devised different activities for each grade such as decorating pillowcases, which will go to children hospitalized at Avera Marshall Regional Medical Center or packing soup mixes to add to the regular food backpacks that children take home on weekends.

Forty-two Lakeview children take home a bag of food on weekends.

“This weekend they get extra stuff to take home,” said Heidi Beck, the elementary secretary.

Lakeview kids packed enough for the next weekend, too, Olson said.

“The fifth grade packed bags of macaroni and bean soup,” she said, “the sixth grade packed oatmeal cookie ingredients – all that is needed to add are eggs and butter.”

The seventh grade packed potato soup mix in a bag, and the eighth grade measured homemade hot chocolate into a bag, which included powdered milk, sugar and cocoa.

Hygienic items, such as toothbrushes and soaps will go into the backpack as well. The sophomores and juniors packed those items into plastic bags.

Emilee Olson would have been a freshman at this year. Every year, her classmates honor her memory by giving a flower to Traci Olson.

In addition to Wednesday’s activities, last week the students and Lakeview community was treated to an Alexandria Aces performance. The group was invited to perform at halftime of the Tracy-Milroy-Balaton vs. Lakeview girls basketball game. The Alexandria Aces Basketball Performance Team is comprised of boys and girls, ages 5-12 who perform dribbling, juggling and spinning feats.

“They were so fun,” Olson said. “They are wonderful people.”