The most beautiful people are those who have known suffering and loss, and yet find their way out of the depths of despair. One group of teenage friends in Dickinson did just that, turning their personal loss into a call for action to be altruistic.
Liz Anna Fadness, a well known and beloved student at Dickinson High School, tragically lost her life in a rollover accident last September in an incident that gripped a grieving community. While her life was short, her imprint on those around her left an indelible mark that forever touched Franky, Charly and Rikky Wyatt and their friend Shantae Rehbein.
The four friends banded together in memory of the positive influence Fadness had on them with her own stories of hardships and love. Fadness was a foster child in the program until being adopted by Brian and Cheryl Fadness. Their daughter’s passing inspired her friends to turn her tragic death into action by helping foster children in the Dickinson area.
On May 11, Franky Wyatt, with her mother Amanda Wyatt and twin sisters Charly and Rikky, joined Shantae Rehbein at the Stark County Social Services Building. The teenagers brought with them bags and bags of items they bought after raising over $700 in memory of Fadness.
In a moment of reminiscing and closure, the teenagers began their delivery while accompanied by several entities that supported their fundraiser, including Cheryal Fadness, Liz’s mother. Together, the team donated the fruits of their labor to a depleted supply room at the Stark County Social Services’ Foster Care program.
Liz Fadness' origin in foster care gave birth to the idea to donate to Social Services, but it came to fruition after Franky Wyatt and Shantae Rehbein spoke with their independent living teacher, Heather Blum.
“Shantae and I wanted to create a fundraiser activity to remember Liz Fadness. My reasoning behind this was that other DHS students that have passed on were remembered by the school through activities or fundraisers, and I wanted Lizzy to have that remembrance as well,” Franky Wyatt said. “Liz was a foster baby and I thought what better way to give back then to use that money on luggages, diapers, baby clothes, and personal hygiene for older kids.”
Rehbein said she used the fundraiser to cope with and move past the death of her friend.
“That tragedy happened so suddenly and out of anyone's control. Now we have something we can control in helping out other kids like Liz. It gives you that settling feeling that something good came out of it all,” Rehbein said. “It was kind of hard to figure out what to do with the money because Cheryl didn't want the money, but we thought of foster care and that was probably the best decision we ever made.”
The two leaders in Franky Wyatt and Rehbein worked together on how best to achieve their goal, and after brainstorming decided on selling vehicle decals of Liz Fondness posing with her beloved 150R red honda dirt bike. They got help from Johnny Wanner of Dakota Sign Werks, who made the first 50 stickers - gratis.
“These guys came to me after her passing and it is such a sad story, but the way they came about it was just incredible. These kids wanted to do something good for their friend,” Wanner said. “My part was to execute their ideas. I had no part in planning anything. I made a couple of shirts for them at first and then the vehicle decals that we did. I knew that they were going to try and raise money and give back, but I had no idea that it was going to be this impactful. This is incredible and it's all because of the girls and them following through with a good plan from this tragedy.”
Wanner expressed how grateful he was that the girls came to him to play a part in the fundraiser. Cheryl Fadness mentioned how Wanner played a huge role in Liz's life and she never even met him.
Donations collected by the teenagers included contributions from BK Subs.
Owner of BK Subs, Kelly Keithley-Gillen, donated a dollar for every “Red Honda” zinger that they sold. The name came from Franky Wyatt, in honor of Liz Fadness’s dirt bike and payed homage to how much Liz Fadness enjoyed Red Bull energy drinks.
BK Subs was represented by Halle Keithley, Tyanna Steckler and Kadynse Olheiser. Liz Fadness worked at BK Subs prior to the accident. Her being a creative and artful person, she would doodle on scrap paper while working and BK Subs turn those works of art into the stickers they now use to wrap their subs.
“Liz was really proud of having a job for the first time and It was a pretty exciting time in her life, unfortunately,” Cheryal Fadness said. “She decided to come down and be part of our lives in a different way now.”
The amount of items that they were able to purchase with the donated money was more than the Social Service team could imagine.
“It going to last us a while because fortunately our number are lower than they have been in the past but it all depends on what age of kids we get into care and what their needs are,”
“What they brought is just a small portion of what's to come so not only did they think of all this stuff but they were pretty thrifty too,” Suzy Anderson of Social Services said. “Diapers are not cheap, wipes are not cheap and little outfits and when we don't have that, we have to dig through funds so it will make a huge impact…It amazing to me that these kids were thinking of foster kids.”
Franky Wyatt said that she never thought they would have raised the hundred of dollars that they did and how happy she is that it will be going to children in need and that it is all in honor of Liz Fadness that tributes to the type of person that she was.
“There was no way you could hate her, she always knew how to make you happy. She would alway give you a hug if you were feeling down, her smile could brighten a room and her laugh was contagious,” Wyatt said. “Just the way she would talk about things, she was so passionate, especially with art;she was an amazing artist.”
Franky Wyatt sisters, Charly and Rikky, help sell the stickers but were adamant to say that the planning and hard work came from Franky Wyatt and Rehbein and they were just happy to help out and support the cause.
Cheryl Fadness spoke of how proud she was of the girls and the generosity that they contributed to her daughter’s life.
“It is so rewarding to all of us to know that helping this program will make an impact on foster kids and also the support the community responded with,” Cheryl Fadness said. “For this group of kids to step forward and want to do something positive means alot to me… We do have good things happening in Dickinson, we see it in the sports, we see it in the different clubs and activities but some of these kids that aren’t in there are doing good things too and this is one of those good things that they are doing and I am just really proud of them.”
Cheryl Fadness continued.
“Liz had a big heart but she had a great life and I think she would have wanted to carry others into that great life too in some way... I think Liz would have liked to see these donations going to kids that are struggling.”
Dickinson High School National Honor Society will be planting a tree in memory of Liz Fadness.
The girls said that the fundraiser helps them with the grieving and that to give back to kids that are going through hardship will make Liz Fadness' life impactful even after her time on this earth.