by Tami Wenger, Gloryland Ministries
Approximately 2000 people attended the #WLSStrong Appreciation Luncheon on Saturday, March 11th in Urbana, at the Champaign County Fairgrounds. The event was an opportunity for the West Liberty community to show their gratitude and say thank you to the West Liberty Salem staff and first responders for their bravery on January 20th of this year after the shooting at the high school.
That Friday was a day filled with waiting. Of not knowing. Wanting to find out what exactly was happening. Were the kids and staff safe? The two ambulances that went to the hospital to take care of the wounded. The families waited to pick up their child or children at the Lions Ball Park. While the West Liberty Community waited and prayed, the West Liberty Salem Staff and first responders went into action working tirelessly to keep our children safe in the midst of such a terrible situation.
But from this came good things. Father Tim West with the West Liberty Fire Department and Sheriff Department said, “The best part of living in a small community, everybody chipped in to do what needed to be done.” Each school bus that carried our precious cargo to the ball park were escorted by two police/sheriff cars. Parents anxiously waiting, finally got to hug their child or children and realized their prayers were answered. The support West Liberty community received wasn't just locally it was world wide. People we didn't know were praying. Facebook was flooded with a sea of orange and black and signs were popping up all over West Liberty. Several businesses were giving away free food and drinks. Our hearts were forever changed. If anything West Liberty is a much stronger community. Tiger Strong!
The Appreciation Luncheon was a chance to say thanks to West Liberty Salem staff and first responders for taking such good care of all our children. In one building pizza, sandwiches, green beans, slaw, and many delicious desserts were served while enjoying music in the background and talking with friends. The second building held a plethora of activities. The Kids Zone was well received with games, crafts, face painting and a photo booth. There was a chance to get a massage, buy a t-shirt, gaze at tables full of donated items for the Silent auction, buy a raffle ticket or a chance in the 50/50 drawing. All monies raised goes to the #WLSStrong fund raising committee.
Seth Merriman, the committee chair, was pleased with the outcome of the day, “Today was a good day. The community came together to show love and support for our school staff and the first responders. It's been a true blessing to be a part of a small town or small community and see it turn into a family that is all in to show love, support and compassion to the people who kept our kids safe and will continue to do so in the future. The staff of our school are amazing! They all love our kids and want what is best for them and it shows every time I see them interact with our kids. Today was a blessing to have the opportunity to let them see we love them as well. I think every day we should let these people know that we care for the staff members and all our 1st responders. They are very loved from the heart and I hope they all know that. Thank you to everyone who came out today and to all who helped make this possible. It truly showed the compassion that our 'family' has to give.”
Pictures by Tami Wenger (Granny to 3 WLS Students)
One- Seth Merriman, WLSStrong committee chairperson and father of two WLS Students.
Two- Talking with friends and enjoying the food.
Three- The basket ball game was popular.
Four- Craft table fun.
Five- Face Painting for all.
Six- Silent Auction
Seven- Ring toss game.
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