Organizers were “overwhelmed” and “shocked” by the amazing turnout Saturday for Fran’s Fight—the fundraiser for Morgan resident, Frances Lee, who has been battling congestive heart failure with its myriad of complications for the past three years.
Amazing was the word that kept recurring as organizers, volunteers and attendees recounted the event. “It has been amazing to see how the community has pulled together,” two of the organizers, Becky Heiner and Michelle Hunt, shared near the end of the fundraiser. “We are overwhelmed and shocked by the turnout, the donations, everything! As we counted some of the cash earlier in the evening, we were just crying as we realized the support we had for Frances.”
In May, Lee’s friend, Misty Wiese, decided that she wanted to do something to help Frances. She shared her idea with some friends, and they began to pull together the fundraising event for Lee. “We had an idea, and it just snowballed,” explained Hunt and Heiner.
Those on the organizing committee were Wiese, Heiner, Hunt, Carolee Betournay, Tina Brandt, Becky Francis, Trudy Toone, Brenda Bird, Sherry Birt and Julie Hosick.
“The girls, who are a group of Frances’ friends from high school, called me for a donation, and I wanted to help them with the event. I got to be the ‘mom’ on the committee,” Lee’s aunt, Becky Francis, shared.
“I am very grateful for everyone who came out and supported us. The fundraiser did really, really well and was way above our expectations,” Francis continued. “My niece has a hard time being the center of attention. She is always worrying about other people and is just right there to help anyone in need.
“In addition to all those who gave to the fundraiser tonight, Grounds for Coffee has been great to support us and the Smith Family businesses like Nebco and J’s have been great to support not only us, but the entire community,” Francis declared.
The fundraising event was set up carnival-style with a delicious pulled pork dinner by the Company Grill available for purchase as well as a concession stand with refreshments for those attending. All money was handled through the ticket office and items were “sold” by tickets. Cotton candy and sno-cones were popular at the concession stand, and the kids were occupied for hours in the games section. Entertainment organized by Misty Wiese and her family gave the adults plenty to enjoy as Frances’ father-in-law, Marty Lee, was the Master of Ceremonies for the event. A silent auction, live auction and raffles—all items and services donated by community members and businesses—also held the adults’ attention. Auctioneer Mike Hansen kept the crowd hopping as he quick-talked services like tree removal, lawn care and mulch delivery alongside fancy jewelry and hand-crafted items.
There was also a store selling “Fran’s Fight” T-shirts and other items. “We all went to school together with Frances and wanted to help her out,” volunteer Angela Pike Okeson observed as she monitored the store during part of the fundraiser. “Frances was one of my best friends growing up. Another of our friends, Tonya Palmer Roller, sent these cute gifts all the way from Ohio to sell tonight.”
Volunteers of all ages joined to support the Lee family. “The entire community has pulled together to put this on. This is what people in Morgan do!” Hunt and Heiner expressed. “So many people have helped. Cindy Gray volunteered her day off to bring the ambulance over tonight so the kids could tour it; others have given so much.”
Rising freshman Caprice Whitney added her balloon-animal-making talents to the event after her neighbor approached her about volunteering. “I said, ‘Sure, I would help.’ If it were one of my family members who needed help, I would want someone to help me, so I am happy to help out for this cause.” Whitney learned how to make balloon animals from books and Youtube. She recruited her friends, Sydney Cragun, Kortni Bine and Clara Winn, to help twist balloons for the afternoon. Cragun became an expert at swords while Bine developed a talent for making balloon flowers and Winn was the “giraffe maker.”
Sophomore, drill team member Addy Romero was running the tic-tac-toe, bowling and water balloon game station. She volunteered after her drill coach, Kylie Earl, told them about the opportunity to help. “It has been a bit hot, but it has been really fun to help out with my friends, and I just decided I would stay the entire time.”
Organizer Carolee Betournay, recruited her parents, Jerry and Barbara, to help in the games as well. Conductor Jerry Betournay gave more train rides than a Lagoon ride operator Saturday. “Kacy Wilson brought the train cars and my husband brought his four-wheeler to pull them. He has been giving train rides for hours. The train is definitely a winner!” Barbara shared as she monitored giant games of Kerplunk and took tickets for the train. “There has also been a lot of face painting going on.”
Morgan and Marcie Johnson joined more experienced face painter, Aspen Francis, to delight the young attendees with “lots of butterflies, flowers, footballs and baseballs.” When asked if they were professionals yet, the Johnson sisters replied, “I guess so, we’ve been here for hours.”
“The endless volunteer hours are what have made this successful,” organizers Hunt and Heiner shared. “It has been amazing to see how many people volunteered. Frances wanted to be here tonight. If this had been any one of us going through this situation, Frances would have been organizing this event. She is one of the most giving and selfless people we know. She gives the shirt off her back to anyone who needs it and we are honored to be able to be a part of this event for her.”
For those who missed the fundraiser and would like to contribute to Fran’s Fight, an account has been established at First Bank of Morgan.