Children offer ‘Helping Hands’ to brighten season

December 16, 2018 GMT

Starting with the prompt “what would you do with $200 to help someone in need,” area students wrote to the Wisconsin State Journal with their plans for brightening the holiday season for some in their communities. For about 40 years, the newspaper has annually asked children to contribute letters to our Helping Hands program, which attempts to fund the letter writers’ plans to create holiday magic.

Many students write asking to help the unnamed poor, homeless animals or philanthropic organizations. But in the letters chosen below, students wrote about families and people they know who are part of their lives in communities throughout Southern Wisconsin.


For example, more than 50 students asked to help the Schmudlach family in Lodi.

Lodi Middle School student Carson Schmudlach was diagnosed with cancer this year and his classmates and fellow Lodi students wanted to make sure his family received some holiday cheer. The Schmudlachs are also close to many students’ hearts as Carson’s mom, Norma Jean, works at Lodi Elementary.

“I think the Schmudlach family is a great family,” Brandon Long of the Ouisconsing School of Collaboration said in his letter. Long added that he was sad for Carson and hopes that Santa adds the hospital to his Christmas route to bring Carson his gifts.

The following 21 letters were chosen to be funded by Helping Hands this year. The needs described in each letter were verified and several were edited for length and to protect the privacy of the writer or recipient.

Funding for the grants comes from State Journal Youth Services Inc. and generous donors. Those donations allowed for larger grants to more recipients.

Dear Helping Hands,

A teacher in our school, the Lodi Elementary School, has a son who is sick with cancer. He now has to live at the hospital. I feel super sad for him because he is in the hospital with cancer. He will have to have Christmas in the hospital and I hope Santa visits him and brings him presents in the hospital.

His name is Carson Schmudlach and he was supposed to go to school at the Lodi Middle School, but he can’t because he is always in the hospital. His mom, Norma Jean Schmudlach, can no longer work at our school because she is watching Carson at the hospital.

I think the Schmudlach family is a great family and Helping Hands should help them out this Christmas season. A gift from Helping Hands would make the Schmudlach family so happy. I want them to be happy. I hope they can get out of the hospital by Christmas.


Thank you for reading my letter and for helping the Schmudlach family if you can. — Brandon Long, third grade, Ouisconsing School of Collaboration, Lodi

Aidan McMahon, Angelina Johnson, Ava Rolfe, Baylee Errthum, Brock Wendt, Cade Crary, Collin Stevenson, Cyrus Clemen, Dougal Edwards, Ellie Fahey, Emery Crane, Everett Clemens, Grant Miller, Hannah Davis, Mason Markgraf, Sydney Gruel, Keleigh Bannach, Henry Homuth, Isaac Prosek, Jack Homuth, Jackson Ladwig, Jacob Allen, Katherine Frey, Makenna Miklas, Maxwell Lawler, Mia Walstad, Michael Yates, Mikko LaMere, Noah Allen, Noah Streit, Norah Gruel, Olivia Woodburn, Parker Olson, Riley Brown, Ruby Krugman, Sabrina Schmidt, Braydon Newcomb, Simon Ricks, Sophie Woodburn, Taylor Hegge, Trevor Meinking, Tycen Stuhr and Yeilen Campa from Ouisconsing School of Collaboration also wrote about this family.

Ashlyn Sebert, Nattalie Kelley, Abigail Strong, Summer Rake, Eli Schnieder, Katie Schilling and Harlie Gjanvenis from Lodi Middle School also wrote about this family.

Dear Helping Hands,

My family and I are in need of winter clothing and hats and boots because we have too many bills and that’s what’s getting in the way of getting our winter clothing. If I had $200 I would buy winter clothing, winter accessories and hats and boots for my family and me. Thank you for reading my letter. — A student from Toki Middle School, Madison

Dear Helping Hands,

I am 10 years old and I’m not old enough to get a job to help my mom and my family. If I had $200 to help my mom I would use the money to help us get groceries and new clothes.

My first reason is my mom can’t get a job because she has something wrong with her legs. I am worried that she will have this for the rest of her life. She sees the doctors a lot, and she is in and out of the hospital too. My dad is never around.

She has rent and electric bills to pay. There is no help, and I just really want to help her. I feel she deserves the $200 because she does so much for us by keeping us safe and protected. I think this way because when we didn’t have the apartment, we always had to live in hotel rooms. She did so much for me and my family. I wish I could give her $200 but that is up to you.

I hope you choose my letter because my mom does so much, and I wish I could give her anything she wants but I can’t. She always kept a roof over our heads even when times were very hard. The hardest times and the roughest times she would always lighten the mood! — A fifth-grade student from Lake View Elementary School, Madison

Dear Helping Hands,

If I had $200 to give someone it would be to a family in Wonewoc, because the flood destroyed their house in August.

Their family had it bad because their stairs in front broke and flowed down by the water and their house was so bad they had to move. They found a house in Kendall, but their kids never moved schools. I would still give it to them because it would pay for food, new furniture, a heating bill, and clothes to replace what they lost. Plus they are really good friends and they are great to hang out with and they will always be there for me when I need someone to talk to.

I want them to get the money in cash so they can shop anywhere they want to get all the supplies they need that got ruined. — Trenna Brandt, Wonewoc-Center School

Ashley Rodriguez and Xena Johnson also wrote about this family.

Dear Helping Hands,

I am writing to you about my uncle because he is struggling with his health. He has a sickness that is called myelodysplastic syndrome (which causes shortness of breath, fatigue, easy bruising and paleness, infections, bleeding, anemia, red spots on the skin and malaise.) He is always in a lot of pain. Each time they try something new for medicine or treatment it only seems to be getting worse. He has scabs and sores on his face. He has an area at the top of his head where you can see his skull because of surgery and the skin graft is not working.

The most painful thing about him being ill is that he has a family and he can’t be as active with them as he would like to. My uncle and aunt have a son in a 7th grade. I think sometimes my cousin has a hard time understanding what is going on with his dad. So it is hard for them to keep track of all of the other things in their life. They like to help other people in need in their community and don’t like to ask for help from others.

Why do I think you should choose my uncle to give the $200? There are times that I don’t have any idea what they’re up to because they’re always at appointments. I know other people struggle with this, but my grandma and grandpa watch my cousin when they are at appointments. So I see my cousin, but I don’t see his parents as much. I can’t do much to help them, I just wish I could help them have little better life.

If they were chosen I was thinking they could use the money to pay for some of their medical bills and get them a certificate. They could go and have a nice dinner as a family.

Thank you for considering my uncle. I know he will be very happy we are thinking of him. — Sumaryn Halverson, fifth grade, Highland Park Elementary

Dear Helping Hands,

I know a person who is my mom’s good friend. She would be the perfect recipient for the money because she is having a rough time right now in her life. She has a baby daughter. Her husband passed away recently after his two year battle with cancer. And her mother is now battling colon cancer. My mom’s friend had surgery to get a mass taken out of her chest after a complication during the birth of her daughter.

Her husband was diagnosed with a stage four colon cancer in August of 2016. He fought so hard during his cancer treatments. He took every possible cancer treatment that could treat him. They really wanted to have kids and it finally happened. He really wanted to be there for his daughter’s birth. His daughter was born in July. He did make it to her birth, but he died soon after. While my mom’s friend was in the hospital the doctors found a blood clot and an aneurysm in her chest this made her stay in the hospital for two extra weeks.

While she was dealing with her complications and her newborn baby her husband passed away peacefully on Sept. 9. In June, my mom’s friend’s found out that her mother has stage 3 colon cancer. It’s the same cancer that took her husband’s life.

This family really deserves this money because they are going through a lot right now and she needs money to pay for her baby and her surgery. She is a really nice person and she is really deserving of this money. If I win and she gets the money it would make her Christmas a lot better. Also it would make her happier and glad to be with her family for this Christmas season. — Hannah Fogo, seventh grade, Richland Middle School, Richland Center

Makenna Monson also wrote about this family.

Dear Helping Hands,

If I had $200 dollars, I would give it to a family in Elroy because they lost a lot in the flood. I know them because one family member does a lot of stuff for our school, like drive the bus for children from school and to school. He also drives to some other things, like drive our volleyball team to our tournaments on the weekend early in the morning and just some stuff like that that makes him remembered by a lot of people. He will also do nice things like buy us doughnuts.

They were one of the families that had to be rescued by boat. They also had three dogs that had to be rescued by the boat. The water in their house was as high as six feet. Their house is now in the process of being condemned. I think they deserve the money because they lost all of their furniture, both of their dressers, their vehicles and some of their electronics. Everything that was in their basement, like the furnace, hunting equipment, and other storage, was also lost.

They are not really the kind of people who would ask for help. They would be the people who are asking if they can help others. That is just the kind of people they are. For that, I feel they really deserve this money for all the things that they just did to help and be kind. Thank you so much for considering them. — Nicole Totzke, ninth grade, Wonewoc-Center School, Wonewoc

Lauren Johnson also wrote about this family.

Dear Helping Hands,

I know a person who could use the $200 during the holiday season to help him buy new clothes and something to eat. I’ve noticed that he has not been eating at lunchtime at school for the past two months and he has been wearing the same pair of clothes for three days at a time. He lives along with five other siblings that his parents do their best to take care of and make sure they do good in life and become good people. I really think if you’re reading this letter you should take it into consideration to give this boy $200. It would make a world of difference to this boy. With the $200 this person could buy new clothes, shoes and food. — Montana Birch, seventh grade, Richland Middle School, Richland Center

Dear Helping Hands,

There is a girl in my class and about two weeks ago, she came to school with heartbreaking news, her father had passed away during the weekend. She is usually such a happy, bubbly girl, but ever since that event, she hasn’t talked much, she hasn’t smiled, she’s been so miserable.

She really deserves a good thing to happen to her and her family right about now. I sometimes think about how she must feel, and how her little brother must feel. When I think about that, it makes me want to curl up into a ball and sob, for her and her family, and how I would feel if I lost one of my parents when I was in 6th grade, and how hard it must be to be sad all the time. If I were in her shoes, I would really want something to help, to make me feel comforted and to let me relax and not have to worry. Please, think about giving her and her family a chance to be helped. I really think it would be nice. — Abigail Barrett, sixth grade, Sauk Prairie Middle School, Sauk Prairie

Dear Helping Hands,

We are writing this letter to help our great-grandma. The reason we wrote this letter is to help her out because she has helped us so much.

With nowhere to go our great grandma took us in. So we moved into our great grandma’s with our aunt, grandma, little brother and our dad.

While we were there, the house started to fall apart slowly. About two years ago part of the ceiling caved in in a part of her kitchen because of a hole in the roof that lets water in from the rain. More of the ceiling just caved in not too long ago right after we moved out. We’re afraid that if the hole doesn’t get fixed the whole ceiling might fall down.

We really want to help her out because of all she has done for us. Without her we would be in different homes and split up from each other. We really hope this letter can win so we can give back to her what she has done for us. — Two seventh-grade students from Richland Middle School, Richland Center

Dear Helping Hands,

Hi. I am 10 years old. I live with my mom and dad and my 1-year-old sister. When I grow up I want to be a veterinarian. My favorite subject is math. I also like to hang out with my family. Imagine not eating after school until 9 p.m. when your dad gets home. How would you feel?

If I had $200 to help my mom, I would use the money to go get food for my family. My first reason is because she goes to school at 4 p.m. I am very proud of her for doing this. I go to school with her and I am hungry while I wait. My second reason is she gets out of school at 8 p.m. so we are hungry when we get home. I feel this way because sometimes we get home and there is no food and if there is it is only cereal.

I hope you choose my letter because I really need food for my family. — A fifth-grader from Lake View Elementary School, Madison

Dear Helping Hands,

Have you ever had to face the hardships of being a single parent with two kids? If I had $200 dollars to help my mom I would use the money to help pay for food and help pay rent.

My first reason is that my mom struggles sometimes and we can’t afford a lot of stuff that we need. I know this because sometimes we don’t have a lot of food so we have to eat cereal or pancakes. My second reason is winning can help her not to get stressed out. I feel this way because her job is hard. She has a hard job as a medical assistant and when she comes home she’s tired of being on her feet all day. My final reason is that I don’t want my mom to get upset and stressed out with cooking for me and my brother and dealing with work. I think this because I know my mom and because my mom would be happy if she won, who wouldn’t be if they won?

I hope you choose my letter because I could help my family out and be blessed. — A fifth-grader from Lake View Elementary School, Madison

Dear Helping Hands,

I think you should give my friend’s family $200 because maybe they don’t have the money. They needs socks. They also need gloves and hats for winter. — Lilyana Galindo, first grade, Hawthorne Elementary School, Madison

Dear Helping Hands,

Thank you for the opportunity to help people who may need support during the holiday season. It is really kind of you guys to help people who need it most in the winter months. This will really help some people.

If I had $200 to help somebody it would be a family I know. Because this family needs warm clothes for winter, someone to help them on the farm during the winter months, warm water and shampoo, food for the animals, and food to eat in December, January, and February. Please pick this family they really need it.

Thank you for giving me a chance to help someone who really needs it. — Graham Pearce, Mineral Point Elementary School, Mineral Point

Isaac Schute and Lucas Miller also wrote about this family.

Dear Helping Hands,

If I had $200 I would donate it to a girl I know. Her family doesn’t have a lot of money. She wears clothes that she has had since fifth grade and wears the same shoes everyday that she has had since 6th grade. I just want her and her family to have a good holiday. Thanks for reading my story. — Alexis Vavricka, Iowa-Grant Middle School

Ashley Varholik, Caitlyn Wetter, Audrey Rowe, Skye Milestone, Ella Zimmer, Jonah Hoeper, Yessica Garcia and Jalyssa Cordts also wrote about this student.

Dear Helping Hands,

If I had $200 to give to someone this upcoming holiday, I would give it to a classmate of mine. I’m not that close to him, but I can tell he’d appreciate the help. He and his family just need a little help. Thank you for taking my letter into consideration. — Kennedy Kabat, Iowa-Grant Middle School

Elizabeth Volenec, McKenna McPhail, Cameron Shores, Jenna Paradis and Ashley Runde also wrote about this family.

Dear Helping Hands,

If I had $200 I would give it to my mom because we need food and to pay for the things that are broken in our house. We need food because my sister and brother go to bed hungry when it’s night. We have to pay for things that are broken in our house or we can get kicked out. We need clothes because we don’t have a lot. We don’t have enough food. We might get kicked out our apartment. We don’t have many clothes.

I hope you choose my letter because we got a lot of things we need for my family. — A fifth-grader from Lake View Elementary School, Madison

Dear Helping Hands,

I think my family needs $200 because we need food, clothes, medicine, and water. It’s just me and my mom. She works really hard and my dad works hard for money, but it’s not enough. Please give my family $200. — A student from Randall Elementary School, Madison

Dear Helping Hands,

If I had $200 I’d use it to help my mom and dad. I would use the money to move. My first reason is that our apartment is small. I know this because I have two brothers to live with. I’m the middle sister. There are only two bedrooms. My second reason is that there are cockroaches. I know this because I always see them. They’re so disgusting.

My final reason is that I would have my own room. I want to move into a place where I can still go to the same school. I hope that I can move and I can stay at the same school because I have a lot of friends. I hope you choose my letter because I really want to move to somewhere in Madison. — A fifth-grader from Lake View Elementary School, Madison

Dear Helping Hands,

I know a family in need of help. This family consists of a single mom working really hard to raise her two children. They live in a trailer that needs a lot of work and the mom can only work part time. They always have to go to the food pantry for food, their car is falling apart. The water pipes will freeze unless they keep the water on in the winter. They’re always low on food. The dad tries to help, but just doesn’t have the money. They have trouble paying for rent and the electric bill, the wi-fi bill just so the kids can do the work they need to from home. There is more bills. Will you please help this family out? — A student from Lodi Middle School, Lodi

Dear Helping Hands,

The family is homeless. There are five children and a mother. They were staying at their aunt’s apartment and one of the daughters was cooking and left the room. The stove caught fire and burned down the apartment complex. Now both families are homeless and one is split up. You should give the money to the family so they can be together for Christmas. — Jadon Meloch, eighth grade, Fountain of Life Worship Center, Madison

Jamari Brand, Gerbari Cannady, Alexander Godar, Kaye Hawkins, Lynell Johnson, Miguel Sosa, Robert Thompson, Wayne Thompson, Mekai Ward, Khalia Rafols, Ean Meloch and Juan Carlos Cruz from Fountain of Life Worship Center also wrote about this family.