Wisconsin Knights and community raise funds to support family after mom dies in childbirth
By Andrew Fowler
MARSHFIELD, WIS. — Father Keith Kitzhaber, pastor of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Marshfield, Wis., got a call at 6 a.m. It was Marshfield Hospital, asking him to come to the hospital right away.
“They had someone who was fading fast and just had a child,” Father Kitzhaber said. “On my way over I thought, ‘I hope I don’t know who this is.’”
But the priest did know who it was. It was Tennille Thomas, who he knew through her husband, Wayne, and two of her sons, Jared (21) and Lance (25). Wayne, Jared and Lance were members of Our Lady of Fatima Council 4963 in Loyal, Wisc., while Father Kitzhaber served as chaplain of nearby John Eisen Council 1799, located in the same town as the hospital.
When Father Kitzhaber got the phone call, Tennille had just given birth to her and Wayne’s 10th child, a boy named Mark. During childbirth, amniotic fluid got into her blood stream, causing a brain aneurysm. She was 43.
Father Kitzhaber anointed Tennille and prayed the rosary with the Thomas family, who now faced an uncertain future. But he was determined to do something to help them.
The next day, Father Kitzhaber started a Go Fund Me page. He advertised it on the Sacred Heart Catholic Church’s Facebook page and contacted local media outlets. The community outreach was overwhelming, raising nearly $20,000 for the Thomas family.
Meanwhile, Knights of Columbus members from Wayne’s council, donated an additional $2,000 to help with finances. Jason Bourget, a Knights of Columbus Field Agent and member of Council 4963, reached out to other councils in the area, who contributed to the cause.
The fundraising is part of the Knights’ mission of providing financial stability to widows and orphans. It also serves as an example of the new “Leave No Neighbor Behind” program, which offers ways for Knights to continue charity during the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s integral to the mission of the Knights of Columbus to help out a brother Knight,” Father Kitzhaber said. “We want to help out somebody who has been put in a situation that they never thought they’d be in.”
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Originally published in a special bi-weekly edition of Knightline, a resource for K of C leaders and members. To access Knightline’s monthly archives, click here.