Former Orono High School Sports Hall of Famer and varsity basketball coach, Jessica (Libby) Witham, moved from Maine to North Carolina with her husband Ryan and their three children, daughters Katelyn (9), Reagan (7), and their son, Tyler (2) last summer.
"We moved to NC from Orono in August, so we’ve been here about 7 months. We had visited family in NC multiple times over the past 7-8 years for vacations, weddings, etc, and every time we vacationed to NC, we would always leave and say how beautiful and warm the weather was, and how nice the people were. Then my husband and I just decided we had had enough of Maine winters, he got a job offer in NC, so we just felt it was the right time to take a leap of faith and move."
They had often heard of how tight-knit neighbors in their new community could be, but they found out first-hand when tragedy struck recently, and a group of local students died in a plane crash.
Withams 4th grader, Katelyn, was listening to people talk about the situation in class, and wondered how she could help.
“I was at school, and my teacher was talking about the plane crash, and she said there are only a few things we can do to help. And it made me think, 'A lemonade stand would work to raise money for them.' Then that night, I came home, suggested the idea to my mom, and we worked it out and came up with a plan.”
Witham says she was happy to encourage her daughter's efforts.
"Katelyn loves to bake, and she also has a huge heart, so it was a natural fit for her to bake cookies and turn it into a way to help others."
Raegan Witham, Katelyn's 7-year-old sister, who is in first grade, got in on the effort, helping her big sister out.
“We stayed up making signs and baking cookies til 9:00 at night on Saturday. It was fun, and I liked being able to make a lot of money for Down East families.”
They set up their stand/bake sale earlier this week, and they were pleasantly surprised by how well it was received.
Katelyn, who had never done anything like this before, was shocked at what a big splash, her little endeavor ended up making.
“The support from the firefighters, some teachers from Beaufort Elementary, some people who live in our neighborhood, and many others have been more than what I imagined."
"At first, my goal was to make $100, then once I reached that I wanted to get to $1000, but thought I never would."
"We ended up raising over $2,000, and that was more than I would have ever imagined.”
Katelyn's mom, Jessica, says although the lemonade stand and bake sale are over, there are still ways to help this grieving community.
"There are multiple places taking donations in our area. We are donating to the fund that our local high school (East Carteret HS in Beaufort) has established. Four of the eight crash victims were students at East Carteret high school."
"When we moved here, we knew we were moving to a tight-knit community, and we had heard stories about how neighbors helped neighbors during tough times (hurricanes, etc.), but we had no idea just how much this community would actually rally around each other. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before, and although it’s been tragic, it has been just amazing and heartwarming to be a part of.
"It was also heartwarming to have some family and friends from as far away as Maine and California send money to Katelyn because they couldn’t make it to the actual lemonade stand. It just goes to show that there are some really good people in this world, and my girls are lucky to be able to say these people are our family and friends."
Witham was also touched to see just how much the community rallied around these students in other ways, outside of just fundraising efforts.
"What was also amazing to see is that a few days after the accident, our cross-town rival high school decided they were going to wear East Carteret school colors to school on the Wednesday after the crash (to show support for East Carteret HS), and on the Thursday after, they all wore camo clothing to show support for the boys who passed away (they were big into hunting and were on a duck hunting trip the day their plane crashed)."
"Well, word spread like wildfire, and pretty much every school around, and even schools from out of the state, wore ECHS blue and yellow, and came the next day, to show their support. The ECHS teams wore camo warmup shirts, and the student section, along with most fans, wore camo as well."
Katelyn says being able to help, in such a sad situation made her happy.
“It made me feel good to help other people and also do something I like to do (bake cookies).”
Well done, young lady. Way to represent the community spirit of Maine in your new stomping grounds of North Carolina. Bravo!
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