Let the Journey Begin…

Last June, the reality of the Mr. Pete Foundation was just getting started. June turned to July which turned to October and we were overwhelmed with the giving of the greater community. Fast forward eight months. We have opened the grant application process and are receiving requests from teachers and schools who want to carry on the legacy of Mr. Peterson.
We are very excited to announce the very first recipient of a Mr. Pete Foundation Grant. Molly (Johnson) Pavleck was a student of Mr. Peterson’s in 1988. She was able to experience the passion, expertise, and excitement of the classroom. And today, Molly is a kindergarten teacher in the same school where she was a student just a short time ago, carrying on the same values as Mr. Peterson had in his classroom.
Molly applied for a Mr. Pete Grant on behalf of the entire kindergarten class at Falls Elementary School. The four classrooms will engage in a series of art lessons with local artist The Canvas Butcher. At the culmination of the lessons, the students will hold an art show to display their hard work.
We are so excited that this group of students will get to carry on the passion for individuality, creativity, and fun that Mr. Peterson emphasized in his classroom. Look for more on this project as well as other grantees shortly!
Congratulations Molly and the entire kindergarten class at FES!

Screen Shot 2015-01-23 at 6.34.30 PM                                  4th Grade Class of 1988-89

Mrs. Pavleck 2015                                               Mrs. Pavleck in 4th Grade! (top right)


I’ll never find the proper words to tell the following businesses THANK-YOU for seeing our vision and sponsoring our first year here at the Mr. Pete Foundation. The outpouring of support in the form of sponsorships and Silent Auction donations has been SO EXCITING! Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you!
Mr. Pete Foundation Sponsorships


It has been just a little over a month since we officially launched the Mr. Pete Foundation. Like Gina said in her last post, the response has been overwhelming and so much greater than we could have ever imagined. We’re preparing the final details on a couple of exciting things coming up, and we’re excited to get going on the next phase – living the mission of the foundation.

Last night I was thinking about the path that led us to this point. I am a true believer in signs and have had an incredible number of large and small ones on this journey. Signs that let me to know that we are doing the right thing and that we are making something sustainable that will help so, so many along with recognize someone who has impacted more people than he will ever know.

The first real “sign” or that sparked this was the day I saw Gina at our daughters’ kindergarten round-up. In a school where people have to go out of their way to enroll, it’s pretty amazing that they ended up in the same place. And they not only became classmates, but best friends. Those girls brought us back together, and for that I am grateful.

On the day we launched this project, we went to my back yard to celebrate. As we were talking, I looked down and plucked a four-leaf clover from the ground. This I took as a sign that we are on the right track. I plan for that piece of grass to be our symbol of luck throughout this entire process.

A year or two ago, I scoured YouTube for the rendition of Chicken Fat that we had listened to almost every day of fourth grade. I finally found it, but it was a chore! Just a couple of days after launching the foundation, I heard a familiar sound on the tv. Chicken Fat, a song that had only existed in my head for years and years, was actually coming through the speakers during an iPhone commercial! The odds of this very song running on a frequent commercial is such a fun, heartwarming, and strong sign of what is to come.

Finally, I know it is more irony than a sign, but so many of my favorite people happen to be newly teaching 4th grade this year. Against all odds, at least three people have brand new 4th grade teaching assignments, opening the door to allow them to impact others in the exact same way that I was so long ago. I am so proud of these people and looking forward to hearing about the lives they are changing.

I realize that I sound like a dreamer in this post, but the energy and hopefulness that has come with this foundation has made me stop and smell the roses. The path is leading us to greatness. I’m glad you’re along for the ride!


The response to the formation of the Mr. Pete Foundation has been truly inspiring on so many levels. I didn’t think it was possible for me to feel any prouder of my dad but you all proved me wrong. I have gotten literally HUNDREDS of messages from all over the country in the last week… all oozing with gratitude and appreciation. We’ve gotten so many offers to help and some really exciting donations and I feel so blessed. Kim and my sisters and I are busy planning our next steps and getting things organized for the Silent Auction on 10/11/2014. We’re designing t-shirts and spiffing up the Light Game and we are SO EXCITED to get this thing off the ground and help some teachers. I asked my dad if he wanted to send a kid to college or help teachers and he said “I want to help teachers. There are so many great ones that have great ideas but no funds to bring them to life.” It will take a village but we plan to help a lot of teachers in his name. Our dreams for this Foundation are BIG.

Thank-you from the bottom of our hearts. What an awesome community to have grown up in.


25 years ago, my life was beginning to be shaped in a way I could never even imagine. I tell everyone that 4th grade is the only full year of elementary school I remember. During this year, I was placed in one of the most innovative classrooms with an extremely foresightful teacher, Mr. Peterson. I had no idea that he was “innovative” at the time, nor did I know that I was learning true life lessons. All I knew was that I was having fun, doing things I hadn’t ever done before, and getting really fast at math. I got to know my classmates better through writing plays, through our time spent around the sink brushing our teeth after lunch, and “Touching down” every morning with the Chicken Fat workout. I knew that Mr. Pete was a special teacher. I had fun. Every day. I looked forward to coming to school, and when the year came to an end I knew I had experienced something special.

Fast forward to today. With two young kids of my own and working in the field of education, I understand from a different angle that Mr. Pete was truly one of the most innovative teachers of his time. Not only was he innovative, but he cared. This combination is a unique trait that I personally don’t believe comes along very often.

For years I knew that Mr. Pete needed to be recognized. When Gina and I crossed paths in 2012, it was time. Time to do something big for this guy who did something big for me. And so many others.

As Gina mentioned, The Mr. Pete Foundation sprouted out of a bit of brainstorming, but is truly the idea of the namesake himself. He wants to help teachers.

The landscape of education is just as much the same as it is different from 25 years ago. Teachers have brilliant ideas, but the funding isn’t always there for them to carry them out. Even in our own kids’ school we see teachers footing the bill for so much. This shouldn’t have to be the case. We want teachers to do what they do best – use their talents to engage our kids in fun, innovative ways. By taking away the burden of cost, our hope is to inspire teachers to “teach outside the box” and impact kids in the same way that so many were impacted by Mr. Pete.

These past few months have been nothing but inspiring. We hope that we have built something that you will be proud to contribute to, to have fun with, and to benefit from. I am so proud of Gina and the whole Peterson family. It isn’t easy to open up your life to the public in this way. I am so thankful that they have let me in and allowed me to work with them to honor a true hero both in and outside of the classroom.

This is their foundation, but it is also YOUR foundation. Please share your stories, contribute as you can, and stay tuned for SO much more. Thank you for joining us in this journey!

Kim Sundin Oppelt


4th Grade Class of 1988-89


I called my mom today and asked to talk to my dad on the phone. I’ve never talked to him on the phone a lot, the only time he’d ever call me was when my mom was out of town and he was lonely. He doesn’t like the phone very much. I told him all about what’s happening tomorrow and asked my mom to show him the website. His voice sounded happy and that made me happy.

I don’t know why I’m nervous. I know I shouldn’t be. I know in my heart that this is what I’m supposed to be spending my time on. I’ve gotten so much joy from sitting at the computer building this website and meeting with Kim to file non-profit status and setting up a real, live professional bank account (we’re legit, folks). It has done my heart so much good to reflect on him and on his life and to go back in time to a life that was a lot simpler. I’ve absolutely LOVED hearing the stories from so many people about how their lives were impacted by him. I cannot put into words how that’s affected me. So, thank-you from the bottom of my heart.

If you’re interested in helping out by volunteering some time to help us get this thing off the ground, please, please feel free to reach out to me. I’d absolutely love to hear from you.

So, with a happy heart and more pride than I know what to do with, here we go.

This one’s for you, Daddy. I love you with all my heart. I’m so incredibly proud to be your daughter.
Mr. Pete Foundation | Me & Dad


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.
Mr. Pete Foundation | Kim & Gina