Tell us about you, your family and your connection to Coupeville School District
Our connection to Coupeville started as a whirlwind, two years before arriving to this amazing island. I was graduating from U. Missouri - Rolla as a Mechanical Engineer in the winter of 1999. I had my job lined up in Deer Park, Texas and was eagerly awaiting final ceremonies. A close friend persuaded me to go out to our local bar on Halloween - and it was there, ironically enough, I met Holley who I would eventually marry! I graduated and we dated long distance, even married in 2001 still living in two different states. In that same year, I was transferred to the Shell Puget Sound Refinery in Anacortes, WA and we packed up her apartment in Rolla and my apartment in Texas, sent her horses by horse shippers, and loaded our car and cats up and left for the great Northwest!
We quickly fell in love with everything about this island, the pastoral qualities and the outdoor activities. We have had a small hobby farm - with horses, cats, chickens, turkeys, goats, rabbits, pigeons of varying quantities as well as trying our hand in growing all sorts of farm fresh veggies and fruits. We love to run, ride, ski, hike, boat, golf, enjoy friends, farmers markets, etc...We pretty much exemplify "island life!"
We had our son, Grant, in 2005 and of course that brings us to Coupeville Schools. I grew up in a Division 5A school - a graduating class of 612 students and all the programs that go with it. Coupeville's entire school is approximately 1000 kiddos! What we saw from the very beginning is amazing teachers who know all the kids - doing so much to ensure our children are educated and loved! From the classroom to the extracurricular clubs and then the community - the entire district is out there making our schools special. When I saw the thoughtfulness and the uniqueness of each of the class set ups - I compared to my white walls and chalk board experience and I was like "we are lucky to live here!"
Tell me how Circumnavigate Whidbey came to be!
In 2016 - Andy Wyman and I competed in the Transrockies Run - it is a 6 day stage race across the Rocky Mountains in Colorado covering 120 miles. We had done countless marathons and trail races up to 50 miles in length by that time. At the same time, I was asked to be a co-race director for the Fueling Education Fun Run in Anacortes, directly benefitting the Anacortes Schools Foundation. What inspired me is that it was able to raise a significant amount of money and running is my passion. I always am dreaming about what is next and one night I wondered...could we run around the entire island?
That was the geneisis of this idea - Circumnavigate Whidbey. We start and end in Coupeville and we raise money and awareness for the Coupeville Schools Foundation. At the beginning, it was an individual idea. I asked Andy if he would join and of course he said yes!
As you all many know - year one ended up warm and for whatever reason, my kidney's couldn't keep up with the muscle breakdown and I was hospitalized with Rhabdomyolosis. What happened then was a "made for TV drama" as all my friends came together and finished Day 3 as a relay and it showed me that this community is amazing and that is exactly what Circumnavigate should be...
So now the format has tweaked a bit, adding swimming and biking to ease the wear and tear on our bodies - it is much more achievable now and that opened it up for more participants! I believe at some parts of this year's event, we may have up to 10 people joining us!
Are there any examples you can give of how the amazing Coupeville School District Teachers and Staff have made a difference for your families life? Why is raising money to support schools so impactful?
I really loved Grant's experience in Coupeville Elementary. Mr Noste, Mr Kemmer, Ms Sherman among so many caring and inspiring teachers and faculty. Grant loves school! I joined the 5th grade for the Deception Pass Overnight and it was so great to see them interact with the entire grade and how the entire class was so close.
Middle School has been wonderful as well - Grant has been really involved in band, jazz band, and drama. It is fun to raise someone who is artistic as both his parents are engineers. We love music and theater so to see his skills and confidence grow each year with Mr Jenkins and his piano teacher, Ms. Verna Morgan has been amazing. It has really inspired him to things like Whidbey has Talent, Composition competitions, and joining the Whidbey Playhouse during the summers.
For me, I wanted to give back to the teachers that were making a difference in our son's life. I found the Foundation website - met Chic Merwine for dinner at Ciao's and the rest is history! I joined the Community Foundation for Coupeville Schools Foundation and we have been able to generate enough fundraising to increase our grants for teachers to $30,000 for the 2019 - 2020 school year. That is $30 per student and is so impactful for such a small district.