STERLING – Saryn Seeley is paying it forward.
The St. Mary's School fifth-grader won a brand-new Trek bicycle; she raised more than $350 – the most of any student – for the annual walkathon to benefit the school.
But Saryn, 11, is not keeping her prize. She instead (at the suggestion of her father) is raffling it off and donating the proceeds to the Gainey family, whose son has stage 4 colon cancer.
"I just wanted to do something nice," she said. "I wanted to pay it forward."
Saryn was the recipient of a similar outpouring of support about a year and a half ago. Her mother was in a serious car accident; she was thrown through the windshield of her car and suffered serious injuries, including bleeding on her brain. School staff and families donated money for gas cards and provided home-cooked meals.
Jim and Maureen Gainey, both longtime teachers at the school, were speechless at the gesture.
Their son, Jim Gainey, 31, a 1999 Newman Central Catholic High School graduate who lives in Prairie du Sac, Wis., and is married with two sons, ages 3 and 1, was humbled.
"She is just the sweetest thing to do this," Maureen Gainey said. "We're very proud of her. And very grateful to her.
"But that's what we do, that's what we teach here [to help those in need]. It just warms your heart – that what you're telling them and showing them, they're really taking it to heart. That's what you hope for.
"I just never realized it would be me and my family [who would receive the help]."
Saryn's mother, Deana Seeley, who volunteers as a nurse at the school, naturally is proud.
"I'm just proud of her, as an 11-year-old, to support that idea," she said. "She's a good kid. She never thought once not to agree with the idea."
The St. Mary's School community, which often is described as a family, has stepped up to the plate. Staff and families already have bought almost $200 in raffle tickets. One parent even bought tickets, not for her family, but for a less fortunate family, who ordinarily might not be entered in the raffle because they cannot afford tickets.
Saryn is surprised by the ripple effect of her gesture.
"It makes me feel good," she said.
Tickets are available through May 28, when the school hosts its annual Fun Day for students. Saryn will draw a winner that afternoon.
Win a bike!
Raffle tickets for a Trek 820 mountain bike, donated by Mead's Bike Shop in Sterling, are available in the office at St. Mary's School, 6 W. Sixth St. in Sterling. Tickets are $1 or six for $5.
All proceeds go to the Gainey family. Jim Gainey, formerly of Sterling, whose parents are teachers at the school, has stage 4 colon cancer.
The winner will be drawn the afternoon of May 28.
Mead's Bike Shop will allow the winner to trade up to a better or bigger bike (at a cost of the difference between the two bikes) or trade down to a smaller bike (at no cost), if necessary.
Call St. Mary's at 815-625-2253 for more information.