It was perfectly fitting that the Chicago Cubs were destroying the Pittsburgh Pirates during their home opener April 8 at the same time that a fundraiser was being held in honor of former Kaneland Harter Middle School physical education teacher Lorrie Hamblen.
Hamblen, an avid Cubs fan, died March 19 as a result of a pulmonary embolism. She was 46.
“She just had a spirit that could lift anybody up,” eighth-grader Alex McGarvey said. “Let’s say you’re having a bad day and you’re really down, you’d go to gym class and she’d lift your spirits up high and then you’d be doing better. It’s tough, but we’ll bring her with us.”
The hundreds of students who attended the fundraiser for Hamblen’s family certainly were spirited. Without a doubt, spring fever had kicked in a bit with the beautiful weather.
“We were able to ballpark it and we think we had about 500 kids,” Harter Middle School teacher Kendall Lawson said. “We have open gyms all the time and never get this kind of turnout. And the kids needed something like this. They needed an outlet.”
Lawson got to know Hamblen quickly this school year as a colleague told her that Harter was getting one of the good ones.
“We were at a wrestling meet and she was cheering on the kids and jumping up and down,” she said. “She was acting like the mom saying, ‘Those are my kids!’ It was so awesome.”
It was that love for her students that won her students over quickly.
“She just had a positive attitude all the time,” eighth-grader Connor Rei said. “She was a really fun teacher.”
“She was there for everybody,” seventh-grader Kyle Book said. “She always had a smile to give you.”
“It was really hard walking into the locker room and seeing her office but not seeing her,” seventh-grader Alyssa Galvez said. “She was such a nice teacher. She would talk to us about our personal life and now we can’t do that anymore.”
Eighth-graders Daisy Favela and Bre Ebert collaborated on getting wristbands made with Cubs colors and the phrase, “Forever in Your Hearts.” Ebert had known Hamblen since kindergarten; her father, Marc, went to middle school and high school with her. He had the bracelets made at his Sugar Grove business, SignFx.
“We had made a group chat and put our ideas together and came up with the idea for the bracelets,” Favela said. “And we wanted to do something with Cubs, so that’s why we picked these colors.”
Kids paid $3 to enter the fundraiser, which included a 3-on-3 basketball tournament, other games, concessions and a screening of “The Greatest Showman.”
“We’re happy to help her family out,” Galvez said. “I don’t feel like she had enough time, so it’s nice to honor her.”
Seventh-grader Mallory Nitsche felt the same way.
“I like being here to honor her and stuff,” she said. “We’re helping her family by raising money for her.”
Seventh-grader Ryan Pfotenhauer said getting the news was difficult, but time is helping heal the pain.
“It was really hard when we heard what happened,” he said. “So today I’m here to hang out with some of my friends and give my support.”
Kamber Smith acknowledged that adjusting to a new teacher hasn’t been easy.
“Mrs. Hamblen let us take our time and we could even stay 10 minutes after the bell to just talk,” said Smith, a seventh-grader.
“It’s really different to have the sub in there for her.”
Donations are still being accepted. Those willing to contribute can drop off checks at Harter Middle School that have been made out to the Lorrie Luckinbill-Hamblen Children’s Education Fund.