Fundraiser far surpasses goal for new wheelchair for Israel Gagnon

Lots of Warsaw Community Schools employees turned out to support the Israel Gagnon fundraiser Friday. Rachel Jensen, second from left, hands a coffee to Matt Deeds while (left to right in the background) Joe Bumbaugh, Ashley Starkweather and Erin Kelly look on Friday morning at Jefferson Elementary. News Now Warsaw photo by Dan Spalding. 
By Dan Spalding
News Now Warsaw

WINONA LAKE — A weeklong fundraiser hit the jackpot Friday to benefit a 12-year-old boy who needs a new wheelchair.

Sales with the Happy Beans coffee shop at Jefferson Elementary wrapped up Friday morning with a daily total collection topping $2,800.

Winona Lake Police Searant Joe Bumbaugh, one of the organizers of the effort to collect money to benefit Israel Gagnon, said that on top coffee sales revenues, two other accounts — one through Lake City Bank and another through a gofundme website — ended up combining for a grand total of $13,657.

Bumbaugh said the money will also be used to buy a specialized bike for Israel, who suffers from Spina Bifida. Any remaining money will go to help offset medical costs.

Israel is scheduled to have major organ surgery next month.

Jefferson Elementary Principal Josh Wall talked about the turnout and the effort by special education teacher Rachel Jensen who spearheaded the effort.

“It’s through amazing teachers like her that have such a caring heart for these kids that make Jefferson a special place and make our community such a special place,” Wall said.

Jensen said each grade level participated on specific days to support the endeavor. Fourth-graders alone raised nearly $500.

“It just shows how awesome Jefferson students can really care for their people,” Jensen said.

“I hope they remember this for a long time into their adult lives so that they know it takes hard work, but we can do it all because we care about people,” she said.

Among those who visited the school were Matt Deeds, principal at Harrison Elementary, along with Erin Kelly, a teacher at Harrison, and Ashley Starkweather, an administrative assistant at Harrison. They picked up a dozen or so coffees before heading back to Harrison.

“We saw that there was an awesome cause so Harrison Elementary wanted to come together and wanted to be able to help out,” Deeds said.

Israel Gagnon is seen behind the coffee counter at Jefferson Elementary. He chose to wear his beloved police uniform Friday on the final day of sales for a fundraiser that will help pay for a new wheelchair that he needs. News Now Warsaw photo by Dan Spalding.