The family who lost three nephews in the Sept. 7 Argyle house fire has been adopted, so to speak, by a UW–Platteville class.
UWP’s Working with Families with Disabilities class held a soup supper at First English Lutheran Church Thursday night to raise money for Joe and Jennifer Wand and their three children, and for Sharon and Jessica Wand, the two survivors of the fatal house fire.
Prof. Rea Kirk first proposed that her class consider some way to help the family.
“Rea brought it to our class’ attention, and do you want to help this family out or just proceed like a normal class,” said student Cassie Heusinkbeld. “The vote was unanimous.”
“We thought it would be a good way to get the community involved, and anybody could help, not just the class,” said student Mikyla Langmeier. “Especially since Joe goes to Platteville; he has a community base.”
“Everything was the students’ idea,” said Kirk, including the raffle and kids’ activities at the soup supper.
Helping the Wand family fits several of Kirk’s course objectives.
“Part of it is to learn to work collaboratively, to work with the community, to learn to communicate well,” she said. “This project met everything we wanted to do.”
As part of the project, a UW–Platteville psychology professor spoke to the class about developmentally appropriate activities for children. The class also heard about the foster care experience.
Joe and Jennifer Wand initially were trying to gain custody of Jessica Wand when Sharon Wand seemed unlikely to survive her injuries. She is now expected to recover, however. Jessica Wand is now in foster care while her mother recovers.
In the two months since the fire, class members have tutored Joe and Jennifer Wand’s three girls. The class has also raised gas money so the Wands can visit their sister-in-law at UW Hospital, as well as money for a birthday party for one of their daughters.
Student Allie Gaar has helped the Wand girls with homework and other activities — “just kind of helped out with whatever was needed.”
“Rea Kirk and that whole class have been absolutely amazing,” said Joe Wand. “My kids just adore all the kids who come over.”
Food at the soup supper was donated by Driftless Market, Milio’s and UW–Platteville Dining Services.
“I’ve never done a benefit,” said Kirk. “I had no idea what we were getting into. They said we’ll do it. They’ve put in way more work than students ordinarily do for a two-credit class.”
In addition to the soup supper, the class has held two bake sales. A third will be held in Doudna Hall Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
“They all felt, no, you can’t judge him for his family; that’s not right, that’s not fair,” said Kirk. “That really impressed me too.”
“Initially when I heard the story I didn’t know how to feel about it,” said Heusinkbeld. “And then Joe talked to us and you could see what a good person he was.
“Every family has stuff they’re not proud of, so I don’t think you should judge one person.”
Donations for the Joe and Jennifer Wand family can be made to First English Lutheran Church or at the UW–Platteville School of Education office.