Community grants wish: Artus is Bowl-bound!
During a surprise presentation at Maple Grove Charter School Thursday, Emily Artus found out she will get her wish of going to see her friend, Sam Arneson, and the Wisconsin Badgers football team play in a bowl game.
Sam’s parents, Dave and Marge Arneson of Merrill, have secured complimentary tickets for Emily to attend the bowl game. The actual tickets aren’t available yet, as the Badgers won’t know which bowl they’re playing in until Sunday.
Emily and Sam have been friends since they met at Merrill High School. Emily has earned money to buy tickets to every game at Camp Randall Stadium this season to see Sam play. This is Sam’s senior year at UW-Madison and the upcoming bowl game will be his last appearance in a Badgers uniform.
“Emily, thank you for being such a good friend and supporter,” Dave Arneson said during Thursday’s presentation.
Also, the staff of Merrill Area Public Schools raised over $1,000 for Emily’s trip to the game.
Maple Grove school secretary Tammy Ament said the presentation wasn’t an easy secret to keep, as Emily’s mother, Cindy, works as a substitute teacher in every MAPS building.
“What started as a little collection turned into a big collection,” Ament added.
It was no coincidence that Cindy Artus happened to be subbing at Maple Grove on Thursday.
The secrecy surrounding the presentation was thanks to a covert tactical operation by the Arnesons and MAPS staff.
“I must admit it was very impressive how they kept this so secret,” Cindy says with a laugh. “I work all over the district and I never suspected a thing!”
As Cindy explains, MHS principal Shannon Murray helped Dave and Marge Arneson get their classes covered for the afternoon, so they could get Emily to Maple Grove. At the same time, Mrs. Dee VanDerGeest went to work on her end at Jefferson Elementary by telling Emily the class was on a field trip so she would not have to come to work Thursday afternoon. Meanwhile, Cindy was subbing at Maple Grove and as she says “conveniently arranged for me to stay away from the gym all day. They made sure I had extra work all day to keep me busy!”
When Cindy learned of the assembly, she was confused as there weren’t any notes about it.
“They told me we had a school assembly and my class had to go,” she said. “I was pretty confused, it wasn’t in the notes! They said it was ok, things like that happen sometimes.”
From the time she stepped into the gymnasium Thursday afternoon, Cindy admits her memory is a bit jumbled. “I can honestly say, I don’t remember everything. I was so surprised, overwhelmed and shocked, it was a whirlwind! I just can’t put it into words! I just could not believe what I saw!”
Upon entry, Cindy found herself greeted by Maple Grove students, staff, Dave and Marge Arneson as well as her son Jordan, her parents, brother and sister in law. The gymnasium was adorned with Badger red and white, while “On Wisconsin” played aloud.
Emily had arrived just prior to Cindy’s entry, thanks to Marge Arneson pulling off the final maneuver of the tactical operation; Emily was just as unsuspecting as her mother.
“Marge cut Emily’s class short and asked Emily to run an errand with her out to Maple Grove,” Cindy explains with a broad smile. “Emily looks at the Arneson’s like family, so she thought nothing of it. She knew I was working there that day, so she figured she would get to see me while she was there.
“When Emily walked in, just like me, she had no idea what was going on. She knew it was Badger related being Dave and Marge were there and all the red and white decorations. They had this big sign that was covered up, which later read ‘We are sending Emily Bowl-ing’.
“I had no idea; what an amazing surprise,” Cindy said. “This school district is amazing, great people to work for and work with.”
“This makes my dream come true,” Emily added.
“After everything had sunk in Thursday, on the way home Emily said to me with a big smile, ‘You know mom, there are some great people in this world’,” Cindy said.
If she had her choice, Emily said she would like to see the Badgers play in Florida. Upon announcement of the 2014 NCAA Football Bowl pairings Sunday, Emily found herself with another granted wish when she learned the 18th ranked Badgers were slated to lock horns with the 19th ranked Auburn Tigers in the Outback Bowl, at Tampa Florida’s Raymond James Stadium on Jan. 1.
As Cindy states, the family has already made their reservations. During that time, Cindy and Jeff Artus will celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary.
“Jeff and I had been to Florida once for a convention with Jeff’s work, but Emily has never been. Jeff and I never would have guessed in a million years we would be spending our 25th in Florida,” Cindy said.
As part of her travel package, the Artus family will receive round trip air fare, transportation to the game, invitation to a pre-game tailgating party, as well as hotel fare.
“The trip is almost paid for, everything is covered except for food and a few other thing,” Cindy adds.
In the last few weeks since Emily’s story was told, the Artus family has received an outpouring of community support.
In addition to the $1,000 donation from MAPS staff, Emily was presented with a check in the amount of $500 last Wednesday from Merrill Police Officer Matt Waid, on behalf of the Merrill Police Association.
In addition, the family has received numerous cards and additional donations totaling nearly $300 from individual community members.
Emily, 20, was born with Aperts Syndrome, which has presented many challenges in her life. To date, she has had 57 surgical procedures. Few things in life have come easily for Emily, but she wasn’t going to let anything get in her way when she made the decision that she was going to attend every home Badger football game this season.
As part of the Merrill Special Education School to Work program, Emily makes $10 a day reading with students at Kate Goodrich Elementary School. She saved all the money she made to buy Badgers tickets. Cindy figures she’s saved at least $1,000.
“These past few weeks have been just so overwhelming and humbling.” Cindy explains. “We all are just so humbled how the community cares about Emily and giving so much to see her dream come true. Emily is very honored too! She just can’t believe so many people in this community care about her and are willing to do this. After the donation from the police department, Emily told me how lucky she feels to have such a great life!”
“We have received support from so many, from those we know and others we don’t know.”
“When Life gets difficult, god surrounds us with angels. Some are seen and others are unseen. We look at this community, and my fellow employees as angels here on earth and we thank god for them.”