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Mother’s Day is happy time, but also for memories

May 9, 2010
By SANDY MICKELSON, Messenger staff writer

Mother's Day isn't always about hugs and roses and dinner at a nice restaurant. Oh, that's good stuff, for sure, but sometimes it just doesn't happen.

Sometimes, Mother's Day is little more than a sad reminder that a child has died and all that's left are the memories.

We mothers who have never felt such grief have no idea, I think, of what the loss of a child can do. We can imagine, but when that imagining is done, we pick up the phone and call our child or walk past the kids playing in the yard and pat their heads on the way by.

Carol Eilerts, of Eagle Grove, can no longer do that. It was her son, Aaron, who died in a tornado that tore through Little Sioux Boy Scout Ranch near Onawa on June 11, 2008. He was 14, admired by everyone and one of those people who couldn't do enough for others.

He came by that quality, I expect, from living with his parents.

Carol Eilerts likely is spending part of her Mother's Day today planning a trip to Mena, Ark., with the New York Says Thank You Foundation. Mena is a town of 600 people in the mountains of southwest Arkansas that was devastated by a deadly tornado on April 9, 2009.

"The tornado took three lives and damaged or destroyed hundreds of homes," she said. "We will be rebuilding homes for five families, rebuild a 4-H extension office that serves the entire community and we are going to boost the sense of volunteerism in this spirited town to carry on our mission of 'paying it forward' long after we are gone."

With this trip, she's paying forward the support given to Little Sioux Ranch and the families of scouts who died there.

The New York group are survivors of the 9-11 World Trade Center collapse, firefighters and rescue workers who say they are giving back to a country that supported them. The group organized more than 1,800 volunteers over the Labor Day weekend last year to build an open-air chapel out of wood harvested from the Little Sioux Ranch. It was built on the site where the north shelter once stood, the shelter where the boys were killed. The group also helped with other projects around the camp.

Eilerts took part in that three-day weekend with what she called "Aaron projects" - packing meals in boxes, setting up a station where children could color on white pillow cases that would be sent to American soldiers overseas and helping children make cards for soldiers in hospitals.

Now, she said, "They want us to do Aaron projects in Mena for the community."

Bob Eilerts plans to go with his wife on this trip if he can make work arrangements, and the couple hopes to interest others in going, too. Information about the group is available on the website.

Others who have been part of pay it forward programs in California, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas and Kansas are expected to be in Arkansas, Eilerts said. Good works perpetuate themselves.

That, in itself, may be the beauty of this program - so many people from across the country working together to make things right. That will make many days happy, not just Mother's Day.

So long friends, until the next time when we're together.

Contact Sandy Mickelson at (515) 573-2141 or



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