Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls
This year, the Husky Booster Club decided to honor Pillager High School graduate Erika Dalquist by renaming its spirit award the Erika Dalquist Spirit Award.
Dalquist, who graduated in 1999, disappeared from downtown Brainerd on Oct. 30, 2002. Her remains were found May 15 in a wooded area east of Brainerd.
At a Pillager High School banquet May 22, Sara Heinrich received the Erika Dalquist Spirit Award.
"It was definitely a surprise. I wasn't expecting the award at all," said Heinrich, who also received the fine arts award that night.
Idea to rename award started with Pillager teacher
Heinrich, who graduated Friday from Pillager High School, was involved in band, choir, Knowledge Bowl, student council as president, National Honor Society, volleyball and applied drama. She plans to attend the University of Minnesota-Duluth to major in psychology to be a high school counselor. She also plans to pursue a minor in theater.
Heinrich didn't know Dalquist, but she is good friends with Dalquist's brothers, Steve, who also graduated Friday, and Tom.
"It means something because I've been friends with the family for the last year. It's kind of a nice honor to get because I have a lot of respect for the Dalquists," said Heinrich. "It was a great honor and just kind of a happy, bittersweet moment. I gave (Dalquist's parents) Colleen and Duane a big hug and they told me they couldn't imagine it going to a better person."
The idea to rename the award for Dalquist started with Pillager music teacher Charles Johnson, who suggested it to athletic director Dan Boushee. Boushee in turn presented the idea to the Husky Booster Club.
"Quite a few of the members thought it was a terrific idea," said Mark Kavanaugh, vice president of the Husky Booster Club whose son, Luke Kavanaugh, graduated Friday. "And (the Dalquist family) gave us an enthusiastic 'yes.'"
Kavanaugh said the award is the equivalent of athletic awards, given to the Pillager High School student who exhibits the highest amount of spirit and involvement. Dalquist, whose nickname was Sunny, exhibited those characteristics, he said, in cheerleading and all-around school spirit at sporting events. Heinrich has that same spirit.
"She's just a sparkplug, full of energy," said Kavanaugh.
And though Dalquist graduated five years ago, her memory and the award still have meaning for the students.
"Now you're getting out to the outer edge of the kids that knew her, the seniors, but Steven Dalquist is in this class that's graduating, so they all know him real well. They all know Tom real well, so it carries a high significance," Kavanaugh said of the award. "I'm sure Sara would be the first to tell you that."
Dalquist's uncle, Pat Boone, said it is always a great feeling for Dalquist's family when someone pays tribute to Erika.
"It's nice the school did this, for the years she's gone to school there," said Boone. "The memory of that will go on forever. It's a great honor for her and her family."
MATT ERICKSON can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5857.
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