MFL MarMac community bands together to support student in need of liver transplant

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The community is rallying around Shaun Mohs, a 15-year-old freshman at MFL MarMac High School who is in need of a liver transplant. (Photo contributed)

At MFL MarMac’s Jan. 7 conference basketball games against North Fayette Valley, senior Abby Schellhorn shared Shaun’s story. (Photo courtesy of John Jensen, The Outlook)

Then, through a video call, Schellhorn was able to connect Shaun with those gathered at the game. (Photo courtesy of John Jensen, The Outlook)

The crowd at the Jan. 7 basketball game was a sea of gray in support of Shaun Mohs. Gray is the awareness color for brain cancer, and extensive chemotherapy for two previous tumors has caused Shaun’s liver to fail. (Photo by Audrey Posten)

At halftime of both the girls and boys games on Jan. 7, individuals could attempt a half-court shot for $1, with all proceeds going to Shaun Mohs and his family. In less than a week, MFL MarMac staff, students and community members have banded together to raise nearly $50,000 for Mohs. (Photo by Audrey Posten)

By Audrey Posten, Times-Register

 

In less than a week, MFL MarMac staff, students and community members have banded together to raise nearly $50,000 for Shaun Mohs, a freshman in need of a liver transplant.

 

Shaun, who’s from Marquette, has twice beaten brain tumors—once at 2 years old and again at age 9—but years of intensive chemotherapy have been hard on his liver. In November, a simple sinus infection quickly escalated into liver failure. However, according to a Go Fund Me page, Shaun’s mom, Misty Jones, has spent several weeks on the phone with doctors, insurance companies and transplant social workers, only to be told Shaun’s insurance will not cover his transplant and he cannot even be evaluated for transplant without financial security.

 

In order for Shaun’s transplant to be covered by insurance and performed at Mayo Clinic, where he has doctored for over 10 years, Shaun needs to be covered under Iowa Medicaid. That involves receiving Social Security for his disabilities. The Go Fund Me page said the office is overwhelmed due to the pandemic and it could be three to six months until Misty receives word on the application. Unfortunately, time is of the essence.

 

That’s where Shaun’s classmates, school staff and community members stepped in, raising awareness and funds in support of the family.

 

“It was just a few days after the Go Fund Me was made public, and it just snowballed. Everyone is pushing for this, which is an amazing feeling,” said Casey Evanson, a paraprofessional at the high school who’s helped organize activities with student council advisor Leslie Henkes and guidance counselor Abbey Cottrell. “He is on a time frame. That’s why we’re all rallying behind him.”

 

Not only is Shaun a student, added Cottrell, but Misty is a paraprofessional at the high school. They’ve both been out since before Thanksgiving.

 

“It’s kind of a double loss for us—we don’t have Shaun every day, who’s this smiling personality, and Misty, who is an extremely great person with our students,” she said. “Misty is working hard to even get his approval to undergo the evaluation process, which is $50,000. That’s not even counting the transplant. She’s fighting tooth and nail for her son, and we, as a community, just want to come behind her and support her.”

 

On Friday, the high school held a “Hats on Friday” event, where students could wear a hat during school hours as long as they paid the dollar minimum. 

 

“We had students who were more than generous, who gave the dollar, $5, $10, $20, stacks of $20, $100. They gave with all their hearts,” Evanson said.

 

At that night’s conference basketball games against North Fayette Valley, fans and athletes from both schools wore gray (the awareness color for brain cancer) in support of Shaun. Senior Abby Schellhorn shared Shaun’s story prior to the girls basketball game and, through a video call, was able to connect him with those gathered and show how people were rallying behind him. Funds from the National Honor Society shake machine were also donated in his honor and, at halftime of both the girls and boys games, individuals could attempt a half-court shot for $1, with all proceeds going to Shaun and his family. 

 

Between all of Friday’s activities, over $2,400 was raised, according to an announcement from Schellhorn after the games.

 

Add that to the $47,370 already raised on Go Fund Me at press time, and the $50,000 evaluation goal is nearly met. That’s not even counting donations collected by the MFL MarMac Friends Helping Friends group, which has also set up an account in support of Shaun at Central State Bank in Marquette, located at 205 Edgar St. If you’d like to donate, checks can be made out to Friends Helping Friends, in care of Shaun Mohs.

 

“Go Fund Me is an amazing platform, but they also take their share,” said Evanson. “That’s where Friends Helping Friends said they can either send directly to Friends Helping Friends or have an account for Shaun set up Central State Bank in Marquette. That way, he would get 100 percent of the proceeds. And anything we’re doing at the school, he is going to get 100 percent of the proceeds.”

 

The activities won’t stop there. With a liver transplant anticipated to cost $340,000, fundraising efforts will continue throughout the month and into February.

 

At MFL MarMac, Fridays will be “Hat Days” all January. Students of all ages can donate any amount of money and wear a hat, with proceeds going to Shaun and his family. Even neighboring school Clayton Ridge is jumping in, announcing that it would hold its own hat day on Jan. 12 to collect funds for Shaun.

 

Cottrell said high school class officers and representatives from the student council, National Honor Society, FFA and Students Opposed to Drugs and Alcohol (SODA) have met to brainstorm ideas. An event is planned for Jan. 28, as is another, bigger event on Feb. 12.

 

“These kids really want to rally behind him,” she said.

 

“The class officers wanted to go back to their class and see what they have for class funds, what they can give directly out of funds to help Shaun, or to support additional fundraising,” Evanson added.

 

Food stand fundraisers are being planned and some students are working to create a logo and a T-shirt, Henkes noted. #ShaunStrong is being used for promotion.

 

Students are even making donation cans to place in local businesses, so community members can donate that way.

 

“There are so many different facets the kids are working on, and it’s just amazing to see how many different ways they want to reach out and how they’re all tying everybody together as a community,” Evanson reflected. “I know I keep saying amazing, but it is. It’s just so amazing to see how well everybody rallies behind our own—and everybody is one of our own.”

 

School staff aren’t surprised by the outpouring of support.

 

According to Evanson, “To know Shaun is to love Shaun. He loves hugs and he lights up every room he’s in.”

 

“The kids want to be with him too. He’s a great spark,” added Henkes.

 

Cottrell affectionately described Shaun as a card shark, saying he loves playing Kings in the Corner.

 

“He’s always positive, always saying hi to you, how are you,” she said. “On tough days, you can tell he’s having a tough day, but he will smile through it. He just very much wants to be with his peers.”

 

“I think the kids are just willing to donate whatever they can,” Cottrell continued. She mentioned how one student who moved into the district at Thanksgiving has even shown support. “He doesn’t know Shaun, has never met Shaun, but he’s like, ‘I think this is a great idea.’ He’s rallied behind him.” 

 

To Henkes, that’s one of the joys of a small school district.

 

“Our kids are so good. This will be my 12th year doing things with the school, and I’ve worked with the young people a lot through NHS and now student council. Never once have the kids been selfish about anything,” she stated. “Whatever is going on at school, they are there—to donate, to help. They’re there for each other.”

 

“We rally no matter if it’s small or big. Even if it’s day to day, walking in the hallway and saying hi to a friend. Our kids do it on a daily basis,” Cottrell said, “but now we’re stepping it up a notch and making it a little more meaningful for a specific student and specific cause.”

 

Cottrell was able to speak with Shaun and Misty last week, and reported he was home from a hospital stay and his joking self.

 

“His spirits are still really high,” she said.

 

Over the weekend, Misty released a statement, thanking those who have helped during Shaun’s journey.

 

“Shaun has unfortunately had to fight some tough battles over his short 15 years. He continues to fight on with the biggest smile. But to be honest, every fight gets harder and harder on his mom. I’m tired of him having to fight,” she said. “But seeing the outpouring of love and support for him is one of the best feelings in the world. For all of you that know him, and the ones that don’t and donated anyway, this boy deserves the world. He can walk in a room and make everyone fall in love with him. I can never express just how thankful we are for each and every one of you.”

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