The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

June 15, 2011

Mike Pound: Believing in dreams ... and guardian angels

By Mike Pound

— As dreams go, Tracey Welch’s was a pretty good one.

Tracey, who was the principal at St. Mary’s Elementary School in Joplin from 1997 through 2006, wanted to do something to help kick-start rebuilding efforts for the Catholic school, which was destroyed in the May 22 tornado.

“I had a dream that we had this lemonade stand like we used to have as kids, and in the dream we raised $25,000,” Tracey said.

Margie Black emailed me about Tracey’s dream-fueled lemonade stand idea. Margie wrote that the fundraiser has taken on a life of its own: “In typical Catholic school family response, it evolved into this large group of folks pitching in, baking cookies, designing T-shirts and all sorts of other stuff.”

The T-shirt has that image of the mangled St. Mary’s Catholic Church with the big cross still standing firm.

The stand with lemonade, baked goods, T-shirts and all sorts of other stuff will set up at 5 p.m. today in front of Instant Karma Gourmet Hot Dogs, 527 S. Main St., as part of the Third Thursday event.

All three of Tracey’s children attended the school, and she said there is a strong bond among those who have ever spent any time around the school. That explains why Jeanette Stengel, who preceded Tracey as the school’s principal, is also helping put the fundraiser together.

“This thing has grown legs,” Tracey said. “We have volunteers to help with the stand, and some of the kids are baking things, and we’re selling T-shirts. It’s amazing.”

The “kids are baking things” is one of the neat aspects of the fundraiser, Tracey said.

Money raised at the event will be used to help purchase textbooks and supplies to replace those that were lost or ruined in the tornado, so there is a certain amount of karma — so to speak — in having kids helping out. And besides, lemonade stands — I think by law — are required to have kids manning them.

I wrote about St. Mary’s a few days after the tornado. At the end of the column, I mentioned that I wasn’t too worried about the school or the church, which also was destroyed in the storm. I mentioned that I wasn’t worried about the school or the church because of the people who make up the school and the church. St. Mary’s, I said, would be fine. The folks would work hard, and they would rebuild. And less than a month later, that long process has begun.

Look, I don’t know if the lemonade stand will raise $25,000 tonight or not. I mean, $25,000 would be a lot of lemonade. Unless, of course (to paraphrase an old Steve Martin bit), the folks at St. Mary’s plan on charging $25,000 for a glass of lemonade. Sure, a price like that might keep sales down a bit, but hey, all they have to do is sell one glass.

Actually, Tracey said the lemonade will sell for a donation. In other words, what you want to pay is what you pay. And keep in mind that although in Tracey’s dream her lemonade stand raised $25,000, that amount is not meant to be a ceiling.

“We’ll take whatever someone wants to give us,” Tracey said. “If they want to give us $100,000, we’ll gladly take it.”

By the way, those strong emotional ties that Tracey has for St. Mary’s got even stronger in the aftermath of the storm. Tracey’s son, Cody, passed away three years ago. Tracey said that before he died, Cody lost his McAuley Catholic High School class ring at St. Mary’s. A few days after the tornado, Teresa Robertson, who works at St. Mary’s, was helping salvage what could be salvaged, and she found Cody’s ring.

“There is no reason that ring should have been there other than guardian angel stuff,” Tracey said.

Just like there is no reason one lemonade stand could possibly raise $25,000.