"Party With A Purpose" Helps Keep Memory Alive
by Lesley Misko
In early spring 2015 life for the Carter family – Robyn and Rowan, and their two children – was at a good place.
Working as a paraprofessional in the Boyertown Area School District’s (BASD’s) Pine Forge Elementary School, the school their own children had attended, Robyn supervised the playground and cafeteria, and assisted in the classroom. A 1976 graduate of BASD, she was energetic and well-liked. Her husband, a 1975 BASD grad, affectionally called her “the playground police.”
In good physical condition, maybe from chasing those kids around the playground, Robyn would often run a few miles a day on the area’s scenic country roads. But as spring warmed towards summer, Robyn began to feel unwell some of the time. Certain she just had an ordinary upset stomach, she tried a few home remedies. Her health discomfort was erratic. Some days she felt well enough to get her run in, but other days she just wasn’t up to it.
Scheduled to attend a wedding on Memorial Day, Robyn felt so sick that she ended up being admitted to Lehigh Valley Hospital instead, and she was diagnosed with a diseased gall bladder. The plan was to remove it. But then another doctor took a look, and his diagnosis shattered the Carter family: Robyn had end stage pancreatic cancer.
After a second opinion at University of Pennsylvania Hospital validated the terrifying diagnosis, Robyn began a rigorous course of chemotherapy, and at first, the cancer seemed to decrease in size and retreat. But then, Rowan shares, “It came back with a vengeance. It is such a helpless feeling when someone you love is so horribly sick.” Robyn passed away in Rowan’s arms December 10.
Almost eight years down the road, life has moved on for the Carter family. The children are established in careers, have married, and now have children of their own. But they and their dad continue to miss Robyn every day, and so with the help of several of Robyn’s close friends, BASD grad Lesa Surman and Pottsgrove grad Michele Allen (now a Boyertown resident), they honored Robyn’s memory and the things that were important to her by establishing the Robyn M. Carter Scholarship.
“When Robyn passed away,” Rowan says, “we asked that people direct donations in Robyn’s name to Pine Forge Elementary School since the school was an important part of her life. As time passed, we were astonished that money kept flowing in, so we decided we ought to do something meaningful with it. We started the scholarship fund because we wanted to keep her name alive. We wanted all the people that she touched to remember her. Education was important to her so we thought it would be nice to help those who need help paying for it.”
Through a variety of fundraising efforts and the generosity of people, the Robyn M. Carter Scholarship fund has awarded between $2,500 to $3,500 annually to graduating Boyertown seniors. Rowan, Lesa, and Michele examine and discuss the applications, and select the recipients. Rowan explains, “First and foremost, to apply for the award, students must have attended Pine Forge Elementary School.” Beyond that, Rowan emphasizes that applicants need not be college bound. “Whatever post high school education interests you, if you need some help affording it, we want to help.”
Thinking about the scholarship’s future, Rowan’s major hope is that people continue to support it. He also wishes that more students would apply; “All they have to do is complete an application they can get from their guidance counselor.” Finally, Rowan hopes the high school administration will reverse a policy change made last year, that prohibited guests like him from attending. “I always attended in the past,” he shares, “and I used to take photos and meet the recipients and sometimes their family. That made it personal. I have run into former award recipients years later, and they felt they knew me well enough to say thank you and tell me how the money helped them. It’s a great feeling.”
The most significant source of money to keep the scholarship going is an annual “Beef and Beer,” held at the Keystone Fire Company, located at 240 N. Walnut St., Boyertown. This year’s event will take place Saturday, Nov. 4 from 5:00- 10:00 pm.
Catered by Moyer’s, a local favorite, tickets can be purchased in advance at $40 for one or $75 for two. The menu includes beef, turkey, an array of sides, beer and other non-alcoholic beverages. (Alcoholic drinks can be purchased separately.) This year music will be provided by D.J. Kevin Rhude. Rowan gives all credit for the event’s success to Lesa and Michele, describing himself as “just a figurehead” and expressing appreciation for their “outstanding organizational skills.”
This “party with a purpose” usually attracts 150- 300 people and organizers are hoping for a great turnout this year. Rowan says he “would like to see younger people, especially former Pine Forge students, get involved and show Robyn some love. It’s a great way to honor a special person, a great way to contribute to a special cause, and a great way to have a good time.”
For tickets to the “Beef and Beer,” to donate money for the scholarship, to donate baskets or gift cards to be auctioned, reach out to Rowan at 610- 505-3593; Michele at 610-547-4490; or Lesa at 610- 812-1850.
Tickets will be available at the door, but event organizers appreciate advance sales so they can provide an accurate count for the caterer.
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