(Editor’s note: Paula Goetsch, one of the recipients of our Jefferson Award that was to be announced Jan. 4, died three days earlier. Family members wanted us to share her contributions in setting up Forrest Goetsch Charities. We interviewed her and husband Dec. 19. Her remarks are included in both our online and video stories.)
SCHOFIELD (WAOW) – A rare heart condition caused 14-year old Forrest Goetsch to collapse and die during a cross-country practice on the track at D.C. Everest Junior High School in 2009.
To honor their son, Steve and Paula Goetsch set up Forrest Goetsch Charities, and they are being awarded the January Jefferson Award for their efforts to volunteer to help others.
"Forrest didn’t have an easy road in life," Steve Goetsch recalled. "He was born seven weeks premature. He had facial deformity that required numerous surgeries before he was in kindergarten. But it didn’t bother him."
Mrs. Goetsch remembered that after her son died, friends asked what could be done every year to remember him.
"So we came up with the run. It is a great way to help others and you get a good feeling from it," she said.
Each spring, the non-profit holds a memorial run in Weston that attracts hundreds of runners and walkers.
"To take something so tragic and turn it into a way to help the community is a really cool thing," said Craig Kersemeier, who nominated the charity for an award.
The money raised provides student scholarships and helps finance projects at area police and fire departments. The charity recently donated $3,500 to the Mosinee schools to buy students "Wonder," a book about a boy with a facial deformity who has to deal with bullying.
And the charity’s longer goal is to provide housing for people who have a loved one hospitalized in the Wausau area.
"That way Forrest is helping them, and in our hearts he is carrying that spirit on," his father said, his voice choked with emotion.
For more information on the charity click here.