Ottawa and Glandorf Elementary students have both held recent walk-a-thons to raise needed funds in support of their fellow Titans facing cancer - Putnam Sentinel
Ottawa and Glandorf Elementary students have both held recent walk-a-thons to raise needed funds in support of their fellow Titans facing cancer. (photo submitted)

OTTAWA — If you’ve driven on State Route 65 past Ottawa-Glandorf High School or along Putnam Parkway past Ottawa Elementary, or in front of Glandorf Elementary, you’ve seen it on the marquees: Titans Fight Together. It’s a warcry, certainly, a shout of pride in place, in community, in self. But, acknowledging all of that as a given, as truth, it’s ever so much more, both within the school district and community and beyond the imaginary lines creating these identities. In its genesis and at its core there rests three names: Josh Butler, Luke Haselman, and Ben Schroeder. The common tie binding them together? Cancer.

“Lindsay Duling, one of the teachers at the high school, came to us back in August,” explained Glandorf Elementary School Principal Scott Ketner. “We at that time knew we had three students in our district that had cancer. They asked, ‘What can we do as a district to potentially help these three kids?’”

Meetings were held between the three schools’ administrators: Mr. Ketner, Ottawa ES Principal Audrey Beining, and O-G HS Principal Ann Ellerbrock.

“We threw around a couple of different ideas,” Mr. Ketner said. “Then came up with the idea of, being that it was Homecoming Friday, we’d have this half-day event.”

At the schools, students were treated to a cook-out, with volunteers providing and preparing typical backyard barbecue foods: hot dogs, hamburgers brats. Stepping up to lend a hand was the Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce, Glandorf Fire Department, Ottawa Fire Department, Ottawa Police Department, and Putnam County Sheriff’s Office, along with a host of volunteers from businesses throughout the county.

But the food was just the start of something bigger, something intended to have an impact, make a significant difference for Josh, Luke, Ben, and their families. Students at both elementaries staged a fundraising Walkathon, and at the high school — and throughout the community — T-shirts emblazoned with Titans Fight Together were sold. Donations, solicited and unsolicited, began to pour in from businesses and residents.

By Friday, Sept. 20, the district’s official Homecoming, a significant sum was already in hand. Then, from what some might consider surprising sources, promises of even more financial assistance were forthcoming.

Every year, the Leipsic Volunteer Fire Department holds a Chili Cook-Off fundraiser at The Leipsic Community Center to help, typically, a child in need. This year — while still reaching out to and caring for a Leipsic resident, Nora Schroeder — the LVFD opted to reach across community lines and lend a hand to their neighbors to the south.

“We have also reached out to representatives of the Ottawa and Glandorf fire departments to let them know what we’re doing,” LVFD Captain Kyle Stechschulte said. “We fight fires together, so why not fight the good fight together? Vikings and Titans Fight Together!”

And from the Miller City-New Cleveland School District, even more support. There, the school’s FFA holds an annual scrap metal drive, funds from which are earmarked for, generally, a child in need. This year, at the organization’s September meeting, the students, without prompting, suggested and recommended donating all raised funds to Titans Fight Together, and the O-G students it was created to support.

“This was another set of students in need,” explained John Koenig, “We knew these kids needed it. From our end, it was simple, ‘We’re going to do this.’ And we are. These are just kind-hearted kids who want to help other people.”

As for why students in one district would reach out to help students in another, why businesses and professionals would do likewise, for some — for many — the answer is simple.

“We’re all one county, one community,” Kristen Pickens, executive director at The Leipsic Community Center, said. “We’re all in this together. We can all help each other.”