Tabetha Nadvornik was making dinner for her family November 5 when the fire alarm sounded. Smoke rolled from her bedroom, which had become like a "wall of fire." Her family--she and her husband, five boys, a duck, a dog and a cat--made it out safely. With the exception of the duck and cat, they're all staying at her parents' home.
Just over two weeks later, Kathryn Mavity's fourth-grade class from Jefferson Elementary School arrived at Dickinson High School, which freshman Draven Nadvornik attends, to present him and his mother with donations.
The donations came from students in Mavity's class, teachers throughout the school and even local businesses West River Recreation Center and Paragon Bowl Family Fun Center. The almost 200 items were based on a list Mavity received from Cherie Mack, a counselor at DHS. The list included clothing, storage containers, dishes, duck food and dog food. One family donated a Christmas tree and ornaments. Another donated non-perishable Thanksgiving food.
"It--it's amazing," said Tabetha after seeing the donations. "It's truly amazing. The community has just been so helpful."
The fourth-grade students were particularly excited about helping the family's duck, which is staying on a friend's farm for now. When they first started the project to help the Nadvornik family, the students wanted to build a "duck palace," said Mavity. At DHS, they presented Draven with a cardboard home they made for the duck. They asked Draven's mother all about the duck--its name, where they got it.
Quackette joined the family when they were camping last summer. Still a hatchling, she waddled up to the Nadvornik boys.
"They couldn't find the mom," said Tabetha. "They couldn't find a nest. I told my husband, 'don't bring that duck home.' He brought the duck home, and my son fell in love with the duck."
Mavity was Draven's second grade teacher at Heart River Elementary. Her son Luke, who is friends with Draven, told her about the house fire.
"He went in his bedroom and dug through all of his stuff and made a bag...I overlooked whatever he packed in the bag and I said 'Good. That's awesome. I want you to take that to him.'"
The next day during their morning meeting, Mavity told her students Luke's story. The kids wanted to help.
"They were so excited to be able to do something," she said. "I had them imagine if their house had just burned to the ground and they had nothing, nothing but the clothes and whatever they had in their desk at school. Then I just watched it. It went like popcorn around the room, what they were thinking."
They suggested that the Nadvornik family be their kindness project for November. Her class does one once a month, something to help their school or community. The question that drives it: what can we do for others?
After returning to school after making the donation, Mavity asked her students how their kindness project made them feel.
"I felt good about myself and my class," said Olivia Easum. "I thought we sure made Draven's day."
Aaron Olson said, "It felt good helping someone because not a lot of people help, and we bought things for him so he would have some new things for his house."
Ava Hauck was happy.
"It was so nice to put a smile on their face," she said. "It made me feel happy because he smiled and then I smiled and then everyone smiled."
Roosevelt Elementary School, Dickinson Middle School and Dickinson High School, which the Nadvornik kids attend, are also interested in helping the family.
Dickinson High School Principal Kevin Hoherz said the fourth-graders' project will complement the high school students' efforts to help the family.
"It's just nice to see the students helping out other students," he said. "It's a real feel-good story."