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'In Ben's memory': Special needs students in Ottawa Co. raise money for late classmate

In total, the class raised $777 for the Child Life Program at Helen DeVos Children's Hospital in honor of Ben TerAvest.

OTTAWA COUNTY, Mich. — Students in a special education class at the Ottawa Area Center are honoring a classmate who passed away earlier this year. 

They started a fundraiser and eventually donated hundreds of dollars to a hospital in his name.

Ben TerAvest was a student at the Ottawa Area Center (OAC) who passed away from health complications earlier this year.

Morgan Addis was one of his teachers. 

"He was just a fun guy who spread smiles everywhere he went," she said. "He was always singing and dancing and having fun, so we wanted to do something in his memory."

In the spring after Ben's passing, Addis decided to host a fundraiser for the Helen DeVos Children's Hospital in Ben's name. 

"We're donating it to the child life team because a lot of our students here at OAC, and Ben especially, really benefit from that team," said Addis.

The class made kitchen magnets to sell to the community in the shape of a puzzle piece, which was no accident. 

"The puzzle piece represents our students and their unique abilities and how when we come together we can achieve great things," said Addis. 

Addis has been a special education teacher at OAC for more than four years, and she knew Ben TerAvest well.

"Ben would have loved this project," she said. "He would have loved all the different colors, he was a big 'colors' guy, so we did all sorts of different colors on the puzzle pieces."

Addis said her class does these kinds of community outreach projects throughout the school year. 

Their focus is on making others happy, and Addis said this project was even more special for the class. 

"The fundraiser is helping to make people remember Ben and all that he did to make other people happy," she said.

JoAnne Thorsen is the Director of OAC. She said she's proud of what this class is doing. 

"Our students have abilities," Thorsen said, "and they bring so much joy and life to our community."

In total, the class raised $777 for the Child Life Program at Helen DeVos Children's Hospital in honor of Ben TerAvest.

Addis said we can all learn a lot from students like hers.

"We should learn to accept each day with joy, realize how fortunate we are, and how look at how much joy our students have and how they look at everything in life with such positivity," Addis said.

The fundraiser for Ben has ended, but you can donate to the Hellen DeVos Children's Hospital in his name by clicking here

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