Project challenges students to ‘Make a Difference’


By Leann Burke/The Herald
From left, Halle Blackgrave, 13, Madison Pfau, 7, and Aubre Blackgrave, 11, all of Celestine presented Trent Horall of Otwell a check Friday to help with Horall's medical expenses. Horall is fighting colorectal cancer, and the girls raised money to help him for their Lenten Make A Difference project through St. Isidore Catholic Parish. Halle and Aubre's mother, Jan Blackgrave, is also fighting cancer and met Trent at treatment. The families have since become friends.


JASPER — Trent Horall of Otwell got an Easter surprise Sunday afternoon when three girls from St. Isidore Catholic Parish presented him a check for $650 to help with medical expenses.

Horall is fighting colorectal cancer, so the girls — Aubre Blackgrave, 11, Halle Blackgrave, 13, and Madison Pfau, 7, all of Celestine — decided to raise money to help with his expenses during Lent.

The girls made faux leather earrings that they sold in Aubre and Halle’s mother, Jan Blackgrave’s shop, Illusions Nail-Hair Studio and Day Spa, in downtown Jasper. Jan is also how the girls got connected with Horall. Jan is also fighting cancer, and she met Horall and his wife, Melissa, on her first day of treatment at Lange-Fuhs Cancer Center at Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center. The families have since become friends.

“I feel blessed,” Horall said. “I’m having some good days. I’m just very blessed to feel well enough to come up and enjoy some time with the people who did something to help.”

The girls’ project was part of St. Isidore’s annual Make a Difference program. Every Lent, Deacon Mike Seibert gives every student in the parish $5 and challenges them to find a way to use it to make a difference during the Easter season.

The students come up with a lot of ideas. On Sunday alone, three Make a Difference events happened. After the 8 a.m. Mass, the sixth-graders teamed up on a bake sale for Life Pregnancy Help Center in Paoli, and after the 10 a.m. Mass, other students hosted a benefit breakfast for local people with medical needs. Then, in the afternoon, the Blackgraves and Pfau presented a check to Horall.

The goal of Make A Difference, Seibert said, is to get the kids thinking about others and to encourage them to get involved in the community. For the Blackgraves and Pfau, the lesson stuck.

“I learned to be nice to people and to give back what you can,” Aubre said.

The girls got the idea for their project from Renee Merkel, a St. Isidore parishioner. She helped the girls get the materials for the earrings and helped them cut the materials, most of which were donated by Hopf’s Upholstery, Boeckman’s Furniture and Floor Covering and Melissa Gogel. From there, the girls formed an assembly line, threading the pieces of fabric onto a metal ring and attaching the ring to earring backs to create the jewelry that they sold at Illusions for about $5 per pair. The earrings quickly gained popularity, and of the roughly 200 pairs the girls made, only a handful are left.

“It was really just amazing,” Halle said. “I did not expect it to go over so well.”

Although this year’s Make A Difference project is winding down and the girls don’t have any plans to make more earrings, they all agreed that they make a good team. They plan to team up again next year for a new Make A Difference project.

“I learned to give back to people in need and help the community,” Halle said. “I would do it again.”

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