While their classmate is being treated for severe injuries -- third- and fourth-degree facial, neck and shoulder burns -- in a Minneapolis burn unit, a group of sophomores at Brainerd High School started a grassroots effort to raise money for their friend and her family.
This is why Brainerd parents may notice their teens suddenly wearing gold and white ribbons with the words "With Love" printed on them.
Brenna Carlson, 15, Brainerd, was seriously injured last Friday when the vehicle she and other teen-aged friends were riding in was involved in a single-vehicle rollover north of Pillager.
The accident occurred about 10:45 p.m. Sept. 20 on 37th Avenue Southwest north of Pillager. Brenna was the driver of the vehicle, the Cass County Sheriff's Department said. Alcohol is not expected to be a contributing factor, the sheriff's department said. Brenna and her two passengers in the vehicle were not wearing seat belts.
Brenna was the only teen seriously injured in the rollover. She was thrown from the vehicle, which rolled on top of her, pinning her beneath the car's muffler. The hot muffler caused third-degree burns to her hands and right shoulder and fourth-degree burns on her face and neck. The teen's chin and cheek were so badly burned they were charred to the bone, said her father, Kevin Carlson.
Miraculously, Brenna suffered no other injuries after being pinned beneath the car.
She was airlifted to Hennepin County Medical Center where she underwent the first of many reconstructive skin grafts in the burn unit Wednesday. Another surgery is scheduled for Monday. Kevin Carlson said his daughter may be able to return home next week, but she will need to undergo a minimum of two years of reconstructive surgeries as a result of the accident.
"She's really up about it," said Kevin Carlson. "She's going to have some real down days, we know that. But there will come a time when life returns to normal."
Ann Germain, whose son Mike is Brenna's classmate and friend, came up with the idea of starting a fund-raiser for Brenna and her family. Her son and his friends needed something to do to feel useful, to help her out, she said.
So the group of about 15 teens, most who are taught by Lea Carlson, Brenna's mom, in her religious education class at St. Francis Catholic Church, came up with a plan this week to create ribbons to give to people who give a donation to help pay Brenna's medical bills. Wal-Mart donated $40 so the teens could make the ribbons and create posters.
Matt Tousignant (left) pinned a ribbon on Tia Przybilla on Thursday at Brainerd High School. Both sophomores, and several other friends, were handing out the gold and white ribbons Thursday and today at the school to classmates and others who donated money for Brenna Carlson, a 15-year-old Brainerd girl who was severely burned in a motor vehicle accident Sept. 20. (Dispatch Photo by Jodie Tweed)
The teens set up a booth in the student lounge before school and during lunch Thursday and today and plan to be at tonight's homecoming game collecting donations and giving out ribbons. They raised about $125 Thursday at school. Most donations came from other students.
Matt Tousignant, 15, stayed up until 2 a.m. Wednesday designing a handmade T-shirt that read "Brenna's Bud." He was at school by 6 a.m. the next morning to raise money for her.
"So many things happen in this world and nobody does anything, and I just felt it was time to do something, something for Brenna," Tousignant said. "I don't think Brenna has ever let me down. She's been a really good friend."
"Brenna's just an awesome person, and this is my way to say thanks for our friendship," said sophomore Joyce Hendricks.
"Just knowing her medical bills are going to be high I wanted to help out," said Tia Przybilla, 15.
"I think it's just wonderful," said Brenna's father, Kevin, of the teens' fund-raising efforts. "I can believe what good friends she has. They're a good bunch of kids, really."
An account has been set up for Brenna and her family at two area banks. Donations may be sent to the Brenna Carlson Benefit Fund, c/o Bremer Bank, P.O. Box 687, Brainerd, MN 56401, and to Deerwood Bank, Deerwood, Attn.: Jan, P.O. Box 520, Deerwood, MN 56444.
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