Kindergarten Round-Up for my oldest daughter brought me back into contact with Kim (Sundin) Oppelt. We were Facebook friends, sure, but we hadn’t really spoken in years. I saw her across the room at Round-Up and walked over to say hi excited to know someone at the school my daughter was just getting ready to start attending. We chatted and talked about getting the girls together and over the next year or so, we became great friends. I got to know Kim as one of the most passionate and hard-working people I’ve ever met. I put her down as an emergency contact for my kid and I did it with complete confidence that she would drop anything at the drop of a hat to help anyone.
Over the course of the next year as we built our friendship, we talked a lot about my dad. I was going through a lot accepting his illness and she had him as a teacher in 4th grade and loved his class. She understood the heartbreak I was feeling and I knew she felt it too. One night she asked me if I would be willing to talk to my mom and my sisters about starting an Inspirational Teacher Foundation to recognize the passion he displayed as a teacher. She said she’d been thinking about doing something like this for years and she felt that now was the time to do it.
The light bulb literally went off. I had been thinking about doing a Memory Walk or getting involved with the Lewy Body Dementia Foundation or volunteering at a Memory Care Facility for quite some time in his name, to honor what he did in my life and in the life of many, many others. I had been thinking a lot about how I could take a really crappy situation and try to find some positive in it. After four years of grieving and being really angry, I knew that for me, for him, for my mom, I needed to find a way to take lemons and make lemonaid.
I knew right then that this was the answer and this was much different than me raising money for Lewy Body research. This is my dad. This is what my dad is all about. Education, community, people coming together for the greater good.
When I told him about our idea and asked him for his blessing his ENTIRE FACE lit right up. He started talking about education and the various grants that he applied for and was awarded over the course of his career. For a split second, I saw my old dad. I saw the man that to this day is so passionate about education and about community. I saw the sparkle in his eye and with complete approval, he hugged me and said “Yes, Beaner, THANK-YOU. I love you.”
I believe in my heart of hearts that the creation of the Mr. Pete Foundation was the act of some higher power. I like to think that God brought Kim’s experience in education and in managing projects together with my experience building websites and graphic design to do something great to honor the work he and countless others do every single day to steer our children in the right direction.