Walter Erickson is an 80-year-old substitute teacher who works surprisingly hard for his age. The elderly staff member still works most days substitute teaching in the largest school district in Minnesota.
But although nearly all teachers his age have already retired, Mr. Erickson has a good reason for continuing to teach.
He is saving money for his wife.
Kelsy Breiter and Katie Blodgett, both seniors at Champlin Park High School, were curious enough to find out the reason why one of their favorite teachers continued to substitute teach.
They discovered that Mr. Erickson is trying to save enough money to pay for desperately-needed dental work and cataract surgery for his wife.
When his students found out, they wanted to help.
“Honestly, I’ve never seen a sub so old. You would think he would be retired,” said Kelsy Breiter, a Champlin Park High School senior.
“He’s just impacted so many of our lives in amazing ways,” Blodgett added. “He’s the kind of substitute teacher where he connects with us more on a personal level, and he obviously loves what he does, and that makes it more encouraging for us to learn.”
So when the two kindhearted students learned about Mr. Erickson’s situation, they couldn’t not do something to help. “When we found out the surgery may not be covered, we just wanted to help out,” Breiter said. They, along with another friend, created a GoFundMe Page for Mr. Erickson and his wife.
The response was astounding!
It didn’t take long for the word to spread and contributions from current and past students, among others, came rolling in. Their goal was to raise $500.
As of October 13, 2017, the total amount raised was nearly $14,000. In fact, the fundraiser had to be put on hold for a brief time because it was so successful, to clear up some tax questions. But, it’s back up and running again now!
Mr. Erickson was extremely grateful and burst into tears.
“When I told my wife about this last Friday, she said, ‘Who are these girls? What kind of parents do they have that they could be so caring and compassionate?’” Erickson said. The answer to that question is probably best answered in observing the girls’ actions rather than attempting to describe them with words.
Mr. Erickson has obviously left an impression on his students that is priceless. And now, his students are giving back and leaving an impression of their own.
Overwhelmed by the outpouring of generosity, Mr. Erickson was deeply touched, and he shared his gratitude with his students. “I know my wife will appreciate it very much,” he said. “Thanks a lot, really a lot.”