These Ellsworth High School students are behind the Hearts and Minds project, which is raising money to buy school supplies for Afghan refugees at Fort McCoy. (From left): Audrey Farrell, Maria Gronseth, McKenna Minder, Ann Lundstrom, Brianna Maurer, Kyle Luchsinger, Payton Langer. Not pictured: Hayley Bach and Jeremy Kannel. Photo by Melissa Thorud
EHS students raise money for refugee school supplies

ELLSWORTH – Ellsworth High School students are raising money to buy school supplies for Afghan refugees at the Fort McCoy military base. The group raising money is called Ellsworth Hearts and Minds and is made up of student volunteers. The fundraiser has already reached about half of the proposed goal within just a week.

Nine students have organized this fundraiser in the duration of about two weeks. High school teacher Ryan Casper, who has been actively serving in the military for 37 years, proposed the idea. The students all volunteered their time and effort to make the project a reality.

The project came together quickly after just a few weeks of planning.

“I remember on the Day of Service, that was kind of the beginning of the project. We went into Mr. Casper’s room and it was all of us and we sat down and just started brainstorming ideas. It has been mostly student ran and we figured it out really fast,” said senior Payton Langer.

The idea sparked after seeing what is currently happening here in Wisconsin with the refugee situation; the military base has seen more refugees than anticipated and many of them are in need of supplies.

“We took the current situation of the end of the Afghanistan war and the refugees and saw the potential this could have after seeing Mr. Casper do similar fundraisers in the past. We wanted to take the opportunity to help the refugees specifically in Fort McCoy,” said EHS senior Kyle Luchsinger.

The proposed goal for the fundraiser was set at $5,000, which will buy supplies for about 400 refugee students. The goal has already reached almost $2,500 and the students all hope to see the goal reach and exceed $5,000.

Student volunteer Ann Lundstrom said, “We are really hoping to keep this in the forefront of people’s information so they can continue to see the progress and how they can contribute and help meet our goal.”

Fort McCoy is housing 13,000 refugees and about half of them are children, according to WPR.

“We feel like it is super important to get school supplies to those children and the more children we reach the better because for them to get a good education they need supplies,” said Lundstrom.

Some of the students are using this project as their capstone due to the many volunteer hours that they have put in, but all of them went into the project with no intent to use it for any other purpose other than just to volunteer because they are passionate about the cause.

The fundraiser will be open until Nov. 15; there is a Gofundme page online, but paper checks can be sent to the school, made out to Ellsworth High School. To follow along with the journey of this fundraiser, find them on Instagram @EHSheartsandminds.

For more information about the fundraiser, watch the video attached to the Gofundme page at

October 27, 2021