For over twenty years Laurie Larson has devoted her life to benefit children. On any given day, she is fully immersed in a vast array of school related projects. Her criterion for involvement is easy, if it entails children or family needs, count her in from beginning to end. A few examples of this fireball’s unlimited energy include serving as a teacher volunteer, PTA board member, booster club member, softball coach, school board election chair, coffee cart partner/volunteer, events and fundraising coordinator.
Laurie's "can do" attitude is infectious! When other volunteers were hesitant about tackling yet another project, Laurie motivated the group to move forward. She achieved success by making the volunteers feel needed and more importantly reminding everyone that the children, school staff and families looked forward to every endeavor they made happen.
Apples for the teachers first day, parent nights, field trips, computer share program, dinner for teacher conferences and family friendly carnivals are a few of the projects Laure has helped guide. A noteworthy accomplishment was the annual Hellgate Elementary PTA gift wrap fundraiser. As chairperson, tens of thousands of dollars were raised under her direction. These funds allowed students to participate annually in numerous cultural art events. Student life was enriched by the Artists in Residence Program, carving classes, musical and dance performances, and hands on art or craft activities, physical education activities, and bonus field trips to special local performances. Hellgate 30-5 principal Whitehead says, "Laurie is one of the most phenomenal parents I have seen in over 36 years of education. Laurie definitely exemplifies a parent who is committed to children and education. She is the Best of the Best!"
"One of the things I admire about her is that she is here to make it better for every child, not just her own," said Candy Johnson, K-2 Principal. She told us of other fond memories when she was music teacher. Laurie spent an entire Sunday afternoon helping set up a stage for an upcoming performance. Also, Laurie called members of a phone tree who responded immediately when Grant Creek flooded. Parents arrived in full force, filling sand bags from 9pm – 4am saving the school buildings from additional flooding.
The Steamin' Eagle, Big Sky's non-profit coffee cart, was developed and seed money provided by Laurie and three other volunteers. The coffee cart serves as an innovative avenue for engaging parental participation and support for the school. It provides parents a reason to come to school; see their children's friends; meet teachers; and become comfortable with their daily routine. Principal Johnson states, "The countless number of hours she spends supporting students is reflected in improved academic programs, stronger feeling of school spirit and community, and strengthened lives of so many of our students." The coffee cart has been huge success for eleven years with 75 parent volunteers each year for six hours every day. Laurie works tireless training the newest volunteers; doing the scheduling, and working shifts that can't be covered.
Most recently Laurie financially guaranteed and chaperoned two buses for students, providing an opportunity to support their school at a state function in Billings.
Without question, Laurie passion and dedication to the children of Missoula is exemplary. She fully embodies the spirit of the Lyle Health Award. Laurie leads by example, inspiring volunteerism which enhances parent, teacher and family involvement; expands educational, cultural and sporting opportunities; and increases school support year after year.