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11-year-old raises over $1,200 for family affected by tornado

Pictured are members of the Samuelson family — including Ashley, Brenna, baby Nolan, Brent and Lenna — as well as Carson Deal, who raised over $1,200 for the family who was affected by the tornado that hit Chetek, Wis., in May. Also pictured are Trent Dorenbush and Cade Deal. Photo courtesy of the Deal family

One of the families hit hardest by the tornado that rolled through Chetek, Wis., in May was the Samuelson family. Lenna Samuelson, her daughters, Ashley and Brenna, and Ashley's infant son, Nolan, were in a trailer when the tornado hit.

Brent, Lenna's husband was in Hayward for work when he got the news and began the trip home, having no idea what he was about to find. Amazingly, Nolan escaped with a couple of scratches; Lenna's daughters suffered minor injuries, and Lenna suffered a gash on her head which required stitches, along with other cuts and minor injuries.

Eleven-year-old Carson Deal of New Richmond heard of the tornado, but didn't find out details until two days later. Carson's mother, Molly Welch-Deal, works as a mental health consultant for CESA #11; her job responsibilities include traveling to various Head Start centers in Wisconsin and providing support as needed.

On May 18, Molly was working at the Rice Lake Center and became aware the tornado had destroyed the trailer home of Lenna, who is a teacher's assistant at the Rice Lake Center. When Molly came home with a heavy mind, Carson asked her how her day was as he always did, and she shared the news of the Samuelson family. Carson immediately said they should do something to help the family. He went to the garage and then to his bedroom and emerged with a large glass jar that read "DONATE TO LENNA SAMUELSON."

In the months that followed, Carson worked feverishly to raise money for Lenna and her family. In the first few days, Carson gathered over $200 from family and friends, including one family who drove from River Falls just to meet Carson and start his efforts with a generous donation; later that night another family friend from New Richmond followed suit by dropping a crisp $100 bill into Carson's jar.

Another large supporter of Carson's cause was Hillside Elementary School. At the time, Carson's classroom teacher was Jennifer Wegner, who had been impacted years ago by a tornado that destroyed her family's home; so this cause hit close. Carson and Wegner gained the support of Hillside Elementary principal Frank Norton and through multiple school-wide announcements and a school assembly, Hillside teachers, students, and families raised approximately $600.

In addition to his efforts at school, Carson and his mother used social media to raise funds and awareness, and more money rolled in from people who did not know Carson or the Samuelson family, but \ felt compelled to help. One such example came from a man who responded to a Facebook post, saying he would be in town on a Sunday evening playing softball at Hatfield park and would love for Carson to stop up so that he could make a donation. The man ran out of the dugout during his game when he recognized Carson.

Carson's goal from the beginning had been to raise $1,000. When it came time to count the money, Carson was excited to see how much he had raised, but was sad that he had not achieved his goal; he was at $940. In true Carson fashion, he refused to be done and instead, went back to social media offering his services of lawn mowing, gardening, dog walking, or house cleaning to anyone who willing to bring him closer to his goal. Within minutes, three people contacted Carson's mom, willing to donate the additional $60. In total, Carson raised over $1,200 which he, his family, and his friend Trent delivered in person to the Samuelson family a few weeks ago. The meeting was priceless for all involved and a bond was forged that will never be broken.

For anyone who knows Carson, they know he has a huge heart and is always willing to help anyone in need, from a child being picked on at school to someone who forgot their lunch. He said it is how he was raised, that you help someone who needs it regardless of who they are or what they have.

In addition to this effort, Carson and his brother, Cade, are also volunteers at a number of organizations and donate a portion of their allowance regularly to various charities close to their hearts.

In asking Carson what motivated him to put forth such great effort for a family he had never met, he responded "My stepdad Adam once told me to never do anything you wouldn't be proud to see in the front page of the newspaper. Raising money for the Samuelson family felt like something that would make me proud and would make a huge difference for another family."

He added that his goal wasn't for him to "make the paper," but rather, for his story to be known on a larger scale to increase the amount of support for the Samuelson family.

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