Mother inspires teacher to give generously

Missy Hammerstrom
Missy Hammerstrom

By Marnie McAllister, Record Editor

A young Holy Cross High School teacher is making a generous offer — in his mother’s memory — to help the school’s athletes.

Kendall Hammerstrom, who graduated from the Dixie Highway school in 2012 and is in his first year of teaching there, will match donations up to $25,000 to have the school’s asphalt track resurfaced with rubber. The total cost of the project is estimated at about $120,000.

Hammerstrom’s donation stems from his love for the school and his love for his mother, Missy Hammerstrom, who died of lung cancer in 2010.

“She passed away the July before my junior year started,” said Kendall Hammerstrom in an interview Sept. 19. “This place (Holy Cross) really came to me and helped me. I didn’t have to seek help. I received hundreds of texts and calls from people from Holy Cross. I felt like I belonged to something. That was a critical part of me becoming who I am today.”

Tim Weihe, president of Holy Cross, said the gift, especially from one so young, is phenomenal, but he’s not entirely surprised by it.

“Kendall always was a thoughtful young man, even as a high school student,” Weihe said. “It’s not easy to come by that level of donation from any donor, much less from someone not yet 23 years old.

“We are thrilled with his generosity. And we’re thrilled to have him on our faculty. He’s a great role model,” Weihe said.

The money Hammerstrom has pledged to donate was meant to be used for graduate school or a down payment on a house. But the example of his mom, who co-founded the nationwide Blessings in a Backpack charity, inspired him to give it away instead.

“She was a philanthropist at heart,” said Hammerstrom, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Louisville in the spring. “I’d like to think that I’m being as close to her as I possibly can. She was my absolute best friend. She was down to earth. She didn’t really come from much. She had a great perspective on life and I’m trying to keep that.

“I’m trying to make her proud,” he said. “Even though she’s not here, that’s still my motivation in life. She was absolutely incredible. I had the best mother in the world for 16 years of my life. I consider myself very fortunate.”

Hammerstrom decided to direct his gift to Holy Cross because the school gave so much to him and because he wants the best for his students, he said.

“I’m paying my way back after the help they gave me,” he said, crediting Holy Cross with helping him land college scholarship money.

Hammerstrom, who ran track at Holy Cross, coaches the women’s track team and works with all the school’s athletes on strength and conditioning. The track is heavily used by school athletes and it hosts middle and high school track meets.

“I want a safe environment for these kids,” Hammerstrom said. “And I want them to look back and think good things about our home (at Holy Cross), not the holes in the track and the bare spots.”

To donate to Missy’s Blessing Track Project, send checks to 5144 Dixie Highway, Louisville, Ky., 40216 or visit www.holycrosshs.com.

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