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Nick Litvinov held a funnel as Beck Ragain poured rice into it as the boys prepared meals for poor people in Haiti. The project was part of St. Mark School’s “Do It for Brett” service day on Jan. 11.
Nick Litvinov held a funnel as Beck Ragain poured rice into it as the boys prepared meals for poor people in Haiti. The project was part of St. Mark School’s “Do It for Brett” service day on Jan. 11.

School’s ‘Do It for Brett’ service day packed with love

St. Mark School students embrace projects in honor of former student

Eighth-grader MacKenzie Lotspeich patiently assisted a kindergartner with a snowman decoration, keeping her on schedule for the limited time frame for the project. They finished just in time, with the youngster adding a personal touch — eyebrows and a smile.

“Good job,” MacKenzie said with a real smile.

The project was part of St. Mark School’s Day of Service, “Do It for Brett,” Jan. 11 at the school in south St. Louis County. The day was in honor of Brett Haubrich of the St. Mark Class of 2017 who died a year ago after a battle with cancer. A flyer promoting the day explained that “Brett’s love for God and others was a beautiful example to everyone around him. Brett taught all of us who knew him to love deeper and to smile and laugh through the hardest of times.”

MacKenzie said that “Brett was such a selfless person. He was always willing to give a helping hand.” She learned from him how fun it is to help others, she said, and she was passing that on by helping the kindergartner.

Another eighth-grader, Collin Maloney took time for packing food for Kids Against Hunger, a faith-based organization which enlists volunteers to package highly nutritious, life-saving meals for hungry and malnourished children and their families, with this batch going to Haiti. Collin said that “it’s part of our mission as Catholics to help others and put them before ourselves. It deepens our faith.”

He appreciates going to a Catholic school, he said, because “we embrace Christ, can talk about Him publicly and state our opinions.”

St. Mark School’s mission statement is “Enter to learn; go forth to serve.”

The service day started with an informal discussion and blossomed, said Julie Bingham, principal of St. Mark. Among other efforts, students made 150 “Blessing Bags” with items for people who are homeless, wrote thank-you cards and packaged trail mix for first responders and assembled craft bags for patients at Children’s Hospital — included were 500 packs of gum, useful for cancer patients after breathing treatments. Former St. Mark students and faculty and others, including students at Notre Dame High School, donated items for the service day which filled the teachers’ lounge prior to the big day.

“We are given so much. This is our opportunity to give to others,” Bingham said. “It’s a fun day, a good day.”

Also on the schedule for the day was making rosaries, with the prayers said as they were made. The rosaries, with accompanying Padre Pio cards, will be distributed in the back of churches and in hospital chapels.

Bingham said her time with Brett changed her. She was a learning consultant at St. Mark then and assisted him in his schoolwork. When he was in the hospital, his focus was on praying for the other children there. “He just wanted to promote Jesus and the things Jesus would do,” Bingham said.

As part of his Make-a-Wish, Brett asked to be a “Priest for a Day,” and Archbishop Robert J. Carlson made it so by having Brett serve two Masses on Holy Thursday.

A big help in organizing the service day was the assistance of two seniors from Bishop DuBourg High School doing their service project. Laura Klump attended St. Mark and DuBourg with Brett. She called him “faith-filled” and ready to help others in spite of physical limitations from his illness. “In service work, we look to him as our guide,” Laura said.

Kate Albes, the other DuBourg student helping at St. Mark, said she’s impressed with the grade-school students. “I’ve gained a new perspective on how hard they work. And they all look out for each other,” Kate said, adding that the welcome and friendliness of students and staff helped her be more outgoing.

Diane Little, a parent of a student at the school and a secretary at St. Mark Parish, said the service work at a Catholic school is “based on Jesus and how He served others.”

>> DuBourg support

Bishop DuBourg High School students collected cash and gift cards the week of Jan. 7-11 for teens undergoing cancer treatment.

The benefit for teens served by Friends of Kids with Cancer sought to continue Brett Haubrich’s “joyful spirit of faith and service.” Haubrich was a freshman at DuBourg when he died of cancer a year ago.

Friends of Kids with Cancer is devoted to children in St. Louis undergoing treatment for cancer and blood-related diseases, as well as children who have survived. It provides them and their families with the educational, emotional and recreational support.

On Jan. 11, “Do It for Brett Day,” students and faculty reflected on the school motto of “Faith in Christ, Service to Others” and on Haubrich’s impact on the school. Brett’s sister, Olivia Haubrich, a junior at DuBourg, talked about the help Brett and her family received from Friends of Kids with Cancer. In an interview later, she said that the organization “helps kids with cancer just be like a normal kid, and that’s all they want, that’s all Brett ever wanted.”

The support of family, friends and strangers “have helped us keep going and let us know we’re not alone out there,” she said.

Allie Bettlach, a DuBourg graduate who is a freshman at Loyola University in Chicago, encouraged students to “take this tragedy and turn it into good” by imitating Brett’s prayerful, selfless, inspirational life.

Amy Rauscher, a guidance counselor at DuBourg, said “our students, as Catholics, are called to serve as Christ would. We encourage our children to be Christ-like and represent us in the community as those who care for others, look out for others and try to make a difference.”

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