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High School Student Turns Senior Project into Community Festival


When Byron Center High School senior Evie Misiak wants to make a difference, she goes big.

Big like this: Evie had to complete a senior project for National Honor Society with the instructions to “make a difference.” So she planned a fall festival to raise money for Relay for Life.

She transformed Bicentennial Park in Byron Center into a place for fall fun, complete with pony rides, a 5K race, a bounce house, a vendor show, pumpkin carving and a raffle for the whole community.

A student gets ready for the race
A student gets ready for the race

“I had a great time. I want to do it again. I want to make this an annual thing,” said Evie, a volunteer for Relay for Life, who worked to involve as many people as possible in her project. Relay for Life is a community-based fundraising program of the American Cancer Society which includes more than 5,000 events each year.

Those who know her say Evie makes things happen because of hard work and compassion, which is why she is being featured in the School News Network series on student leaders.

The festival merged things Evie loves: helping others, supporting a cause and running. She started running cross-country last year, along with her involvement with Relay for Life. She began organizing the Byron Center event and now serves on the local Relay for Life committee, regularly spreading awareness.

Despite the fact that the Saturday of the festival was cold and gloomy, 25 runners raced and about 200 children and families participated in the fun. Vendors paid $25 per spot at the events, and donations totaled $1,700.

“It’s a good cause and I wanted to do something big for them,” Evie said. “I’m a Christian. I love to show people what it’s like being Christian and I want to glorify him in everything I do. So I thought it would be a great way to show his love to everybody.”

Tom Trout, Evie’s cross-country coach, said Evie leads in a way that unites others and her enthusiasm is contagious. Her efforts in organizing the festival were largely fueled by her desire to bring people together.

“Evie has a big heart. Fellow students and athletes look up to her, so it wasn’t surprising that her cross-country team voted her co-captain of team this year,” he said. “She leads by example; always putting in the maximum amount of work specified in our team training log.”

Katy Birgbauer, community manager for Relay for Life, called Evie’s commitment to the cause “incredible.” The festival was a new way to raise money and keep momentum going in the fall. “She is definitely one of the most fantastic volunteers I’ve ever worked with,” Birgbauer said.

Evie, the daughter of Tony and Lynn Misiak, hopes to attend College of the Ozarks, in Missouri. She plans to pursue a career in exercise science and nutrition.

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Runners race in a 5K at the fall festival
Runners race in a 5K at the fall festival

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio or email Erin.

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