Volume 123, Number 1
Sixth grade class sacrifices trip to help Bechtol family
BY CARYN WOODSTEAD
The Transcript New Rockford, ND
Many would say that there are both advantages and drawbacks to living in a small rural community, but when a crisis hits home, people find out that nothing compares to the support of a small town which becomes like an extended family.
Darrell (DJ) Bechtol of Sheyenne has recently found that out. DJ’s immediate family includes Vicki and their daughter Annie, as well as an older son who lives in California, which is where DJ lived before moving to the small North Dakota community of Sheyenne about 10 years ago. Since then, DJ has become an important part of the community and a special part of the extended "family" of the community of Sheyenne.
Shortly after moving to Sheyenne, DJ became a familiar face at the ball field watching the kids play baseball in the summer. Soon he could be heard throwing out a few pointers now and then and pretty soon he was volunteering his time to ump their games. The youth of the community seemed to instinctively know that DJ was a person who genuinely cared about them and before long he was gathering kids together to play ball. He was eventually hired by the Sheyenne Summer Recreation Program to coach softball and T-ball and has become a beloved coach and mentor to many young people over the years, not only in Sheyenne but in New Rockford as well.
DJ currently is employed at the Sheyenne School, where his daughter Annie is a sixth grader. DJ spends a good amount of time transporting students back and forth between New Rockford and Sheyenne, not only for classes but for practices as well. He also drives home students who live on the reservation after the bus has left so they can participate in activities. You would be hard pressed to find a person who could say an unkind word about him.
According to Charlotte Franks-Erickson, a kindergarten teacher at the Sheyenne School, and close friend of DJ and his family, "He is the kind of man who is always thinking of others. He is a man of great integrity and character. DJ is a very special person."
Last year, DJ started having health problems and eventually he was diagnosed with Hepatitis C. As a result of his illness, DJ is now in need of a liver transplant and is facing mounting medical costs. As family tends to do, the community of Sheyenne and in a special way, Annie’s sixth grade class, rallied behind the family and shown them just how special they are.
According to their teacher, Laurie Pranke, the sixth graders at Sheyenne have always been special and that fact is evidenced by some of the actions of the class over the years. When they were in the third grade they helped promote and administrate the General Mills "Box Tops for Education" program in their school. With the money earned by the project, the class thought that the best thing to do was to evenly distribute the money so that each classroom in the school could purchase new games.
In the fifth grade they held a fund-raiser and donated the money raised to the Ronald McDonald House in Fargo. This year, their last year all together in one class, they worked on several fund-raising projects so they could have a special field trip together as a class.
Their intention was to spend the night in Minot, rent several suites in a hotel, go swimming and make a trip to the zoo. The students were excited about this opportunity to spend this time together as a class before they headed off to junior high.
However, tragedy hit home for the class when the father of their classmate Annie became so ill. The class called a meeting and with very little discussion and a secret ballot, a unanimous decision was made to donate the entire amount, $459, which they had been saving for their special trip to Annie’s family. Their teacher, Mrs. Pranke, says the class members instigated this gift but that she expected nothing less from them. "Because of these individuals I have faith the future is in good hands, and as their teacher I will long remember the lesson of their love."
She shared that one of the students said he knew it was what the class should do and that he really liked the "warm, fuzzy feeling in my stomach" he got when the class made the decision.
DJ’s co-workers at the Sheyenne School, as well as others in the community have done several other fund-raisers to help the family and more are planned. The fourth grade class of Sheyenne is collecting coins and encouraging people to donate their spare change to their efforts. They were able to give Vicki and Annie some money before they left when DJ was taken to Minneapolis recently to await his liver transplant.
The teachers at Sheyenne have sponsored the lunch for Saturday night bingo at Ostby Hall in Sheyenne and are planning to sponsor a few more lunches during Saturday night bingo.
A soup and sandwich lunch, sponsored by the Sheyenne School Board and faculty of the Sheyenne School, as well as some of DJ’s friends, will be held on Sunday, Feb. 12 at Ostby Hall in Sheyenne from 11 a.m. to
1 p.m. A free will offering will be taken.
The girls’ softball team that DJ has coached for several years will be doing several fund-raisers for the family and is calling it, "Hit a Home Run for DJ." They will have a baseball diamond with $250 increments at each base and are hoping to "hit a home run" and get to home plate and raise $1,000 for DJ.
There are several collection jars around the community as well as in several places in New Rockford for DJ and an account is set up at Community Credit Union in New Rockford. Donations to that account can be sent to the Community Credit Union at 20 North 1st Street, New Rockford, ND 58356 Attn: Darrell Bechtol.
DJ was moved from the University of Minnesota Fairview Hospital, where he had been taken by ambulance from Grand Forks to await his liver transplant. While he was in Fairview, he became septic and as a result encountered some problems with his kidneys and had to be on dialysis. He was moved to a physical therapy rehabilitation center closer to home and will be working to regain some strength before he can undergo liver transplant surgery.
The sixth grade class of the Sheyenne School includes, left to right, back row, Collin Hanson, Thorman Logan, Drae Malzahn, Gordon Sjoquist, Dana Yankton and Zachery Senger. Front row: Annie Gourneau, Brishia Snell, Leah Poulsen and Katherine Chenze.
Meet at tournament
Minnewaukan-Leeds boys’ basketball coach Ron Carlson, left, visited with former Benson County Judge Joel Medd, right, at the Dick Compton Memorial Lions Basketball Tournament last weekend in Grand Forks.
Running the tournament was former Leeds coach Brad Westrum. Carlson was there to scout Four Winds, which was playing Red Lake from Minnesota. Medd was running sound for the tournament as a member of the Grand Forks South Forks Lions. Four Winds defeated Red Lake 81 to 68. Medd is now a state district judge headquartered at Grand Forks.
The North Central Planning Council (NCPC) has a new chairman. Past chairman Roxann Georgeson of Maddock, right, passes the gavel to newly elected Robert Timms of Cando. The NCPC is one of eight councils in the state. The NCPC serves the counties of Benson, Cavalier, Eddy, Ramsey, Rolette and Towner. The council office is located in Devils Lake.
Wal-Mart in Devils Lake provided a $500 donation to the Benson County Amateur Radio Club which will be used to purchase equipment for the club’s emergency communications trailer. Mark Motis of Minnewaukan, a member of the club, accepted the donation from members of the Wal-Mart advertising group. Left to right are Deb Shafer, Vickie Shelton, Motis, Shirley Simonson, Angie DeWall and Doreen Loehr.
Celebrate 100th day
The Oberon kindergarten class celebrated the 100th day of school on January 30. Left to right are Shawn Lewis, Larissa Dunn, Jaden Whitetail, Shayla Scott, Ryilee Littleghost and Louis Blacklance Jr.