PHES dedicates tree, books to Katie Helling |

PHES dedicates tree, books to Katie Helling

by Linda Hiller

Students at Pinon Hills Elementary School will always remember Katie Helling, thanks to the effort of her classmates, teachers and friends.

Katie, who would be in the 4th grade this year, died last April at the age of 9 after a year-long battle with cancer. Wednesday, 4th grade students dedicated a tree, park bench and Katie’s Corner – a library reading center, to the memory of Katherine Rose Margaret Helling.

Students had collected Pennies for Katie, gathering more than $800 to be used for the remembrances. Part of the money was used to buy more than 80 books for the library, several beanbag chairs for Katie’s Corner and part of the large mural that Nancy Swart, her daughter Laura and friend Kristi Hamilton painted on the library wall.

“This project grew into a garden,” said Nancy Swart, a computer technician at the school. “Doing this mural was a wonderful experience. It was the most incredible thing.”

Swart, a master stenciler, said the $850 worth of stencils was loaned to the project by designer Sheri Hoeger of El Dorado Hills, Calif., after being contacted by Swart over the Internet.

Many components of Wednesday’s unveiling were donated to the school. A long list of thank-yous was compiled and distributed individually to those involved by PHES personnel.

Among the adults present Wednesday were Katie’s family, parents Don and Jocelyn and brother Max.

Participants stressed the role of the students in the creation of this homage to Katie.

“It was the kids,” said parent group president Becky Hickman. “This was by the kids, and for the kids and especially for Katie.”

“Dedicated in love and friendship. Katie’s friends,” read the words on the mural, which depicts a mouse tea party underneath a large tree with birds, a birdhouse, a hanging spring hat and books – all favorites of this girl who touched so many in her nine years.

“The wall was so beautiful,” said Jocelyn Helling. “Its so perfectly reflected Katie’s spirit.”

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