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High school teacher inspires students to give back

By BY KATHRYN MCCOY
May 24, 2013 at 12:24 a.m.
Updated May 25, 2013 at 12:25 a.m.

Kathryn McCoy

Everyone at St. Joseph High School knows this man. He helps us nurture our spiritual life when we as students begin high school. He is often the last to impart wisdom as we leave and enter the real world. He has dedicated three decades to teaching at St. Joseph. He cares for his wife, who suffers from an advanced stage of the normally terminal illness amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also knows as Lou Gehrig's disease or ALS) and requires 24/7 medical attention and accommodations daily. He also serves as the school groundskeeper and head baseball coach, works at the school into the late hours of the night and functions on roughly three hours of sleep.

I thought - how is he awake in front of us today? I complain and have a miserable day when I lack sleep, yet he lives through it every day. Regardless of the cost to himself, he is dedicated to provide for his family financially and emotionally and to provide his students with a great education. Watching this woke me up to a world of self-sacrifice, which was a foreign concept to my generation and especially me.

Last year, he discovered he had two torn rotator cuffs, which required surgery. Knowing this would keep him from his work and leave him unable to assist his wife both physically and financially, he refused the surgery. He suffers from the pain daily, but he does it out of his deep love and devotion toward his family. Even though he experiences this suffering, he always has an optimistic view, saying, "This suffering makes me more alive."

After witnessing his deep devotion, I began questioning my priorities. As I mature, I have begun to develop an appreciation for what I have and the work asserted to provide it. When I wanted a $30 pedicure, I remembered Mr. Shimek needed shoulder surgery, but he chose others before himself. I never considered my splurging could make all the difference to someone struggling.

As the Sadie Hawkins dance approached, I asked my parents for money to buy a mum and was questioned by my father, "Why do you spend so much money on a purposeless mum?" This made me question it myself.

The next day at lunch, I began questioning this with my friends Annie, Ainsley and Sarah. We were all in complete agreement, realizing a couple together spends on average up to $100 on mums, which are useless souvenirs that gather dust. We calculated that 100 couples spending $100 to purchase mums would amount to $10,000. "Why don't we propose a fundraiser to put this money to better use?" we decided. When contemplating where we could contribute this money, we thought, "Who better to give back to than the individual who has so greatly modeled selflessness and sacrifice to us throughout our journey here at St. Joe?"

With the help of several faculty members and the student council, we went to the student body and proposed the idea of sacrificing their mums and donating those resources instead to the Carolyn Shimek Benefit Fund. We had a huge response from not only the students but also the whole Flyer family, including alumni, parents, faculty and staff.

Anyone who donated received a red and blue wristband that says "We support the Shimeks. We fight ALS," and the inside includes the message "We are STJ." These individuals were encouraged to wear the wristbands through the end of the week and at the Sadie Hawkins Dance on Saturday. Friday was an ALS awareness and support day, and all students and staff wore their ALS awareness clothing and paraphernalia. Our collection amounted to more than $13,000 and is still going.

As a true Christian, Mr. Shimek not only teaches about helping others, but he also demonstrates complete selflessness and putting his faith in God, even though at times it is not easy. My friends and I have noticed a change in ourselves since meeting Mr. Shimek. He has done so much for St. Joseph, the community and has had a tremendous impact on us. His influence has changed my outlook on life, molding and shaping me into the type of person I aspire to be, motivating me to better myself and proudly adopting a life of helping and influencing others. For this, we can thank Mr. Shimek.

Kathryn McCoy, daughter of Rawley and Kay McCoy, is an 18-year-old National Honor Society member and graduating senior at St. Joseph High School. This August, she will be attending Southwestern University in Georgetown as a communications major and business minor. Kathryn, inspired by her freshman and senior theology teacher, became motivated to devise a plan to help him as he struggles while caring for his ill wife. This article is her story about how she and her friends brought the school together to help their teacher.

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