It was a tough day for many. But it was also a good feeling at the end, coming together to honor a woman revered in her community and raising money in memory of those who are still battling cancer.
Bonnie Gellerman was a bus driver and teacher’s assistant at Valley Home School for many years, and her freshly painted No. 4 bus was on display at the school on Saturday, July 31, to serve as the backdrop for the event.
From about 4 p.m. to nearly 11 p.m., local residents were busy on the school campus during the special fundraiser, the proceeds of which went to Team Bonnie and its participation in the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life, which will take place in October.
“I’m absolutely humbled to see so much support,” Bonnie’s son Cody Madera said Saturday afternoon. “This is a confirmation of the things my mother stood for and everything she could have asked for.”
The day also included comments from new Valley Home School Superintendent Bill Slikker and former Superintendent Tom Price as the school inaugurated its Bonnie Gellerman Multipurpose Room.
There was music, food, games, special themed rounds, a balloon release, heartfelt tributes from friends and colleagues…and a message of hope and encouragement to those who are still fighting.
Slikker said that while he is new to the Valley Home campus, he felt Saturday’s festivities were a sign of community spirit.
“There is a family atmosphere, one big family,” says Slikker. “People come out to support each other.”
There were a few superhero costumes on display, with the first round encouraging that kind of dress, while another round later in the day gave everyone a sunflower to take with them. The sunflowers were then placed in vases in front of the multipurpose building, with the dedication and then released a balloon. A contingent of the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Deputies showed up, and the department also flew its helicopter, much to the crowd’s delight.
“This just touches my heart,” said Winnie Mullins, one of the event organizers. “It’s something I’m happy about.”
School board member Emily Webster told the crowd that Bonnie has impacted many lives.
“Valley Home’s heart beats strongly with the love Bonnie gave to this community,” she said.
Sixteen-year-old Callie Chrisman sang several songs in Bonnie’s honor and was joined for a special song by sisters Avery (10) and Alexis Cornett (8).
A group of newly graduated eighth-graders — in addition to Oakdale High School — also provided information about Bonnie’s Closet, founded in her honor, with clothing for all children in need.
“Not everyone has a Bonnie,” said 8th grade teacher Holly Benkula. “How valuable; how irreplaceable.”
Benkula also read a proclamation honoring Bonnie from the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors, delivered earlier in the day by Supervisor Buck Condit.
Former Chief Inspector Price said Bonnie was not only a bus driver and teacher’s assistant, but also served as a yard watch and basketball coach, wearing many hats.
“What a great example she was for our children,” he said. “We’re all better people because we knew her.”
With the various food vendors, merchandise, games and auction items, plus additional donations, the July 31 event raised more than $4,000 for the American Cancer Society, exceeding organizers’ expectations.
“She had the smallest feet in the world,” summed up son Madera, “but the biggest shoes to fill.”