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The circle of love

by DEVIN WEEKS
Staff Writer | December 1, 2020 1:08 AM

COEUR d’ALENE — The day she received the news that her infant half-sister had died, Coeur d'Alene High School junior Tianna Harrell made a special bracelet in her honor.

"A couple days before Thanksgiving, it would have been her 15th year since she passed away," Tianna said.

The baby was born three months premature and experienced jaundice and organ failure. Tianna's family lived out of state at the time and used the services of the local Ronald McDonald House Charities as they went through this difficult chapter in their lives. Tianna said stuffed animals were made out of her sister's baby clothes, and the commemorative bracelet she made is on one of those stuffed animals.

"I have pictures with her and I have one of her first teddy bears," Tianna said. "We all have different things from her because my stepmom wanted us to have part of her, too."

Tianna shared this story of love Monday morning in leadership class during a visit from Ronald McDonald House Northern Idaho development coordinator Corinne Weber. Weber spoke to the students and provided information about the family-oriented nonprofit and picked up more than five pounds of pop top pull tabs students have been collecting to contribute to the RMHC pull tab recycling program. RMHC of the Inland Northwest works with Spokane Recycling and annually raises about $6,000.

The pull tabs for RMHC was Tianna's idea when she and her classmates brainstormed what to do for a community service project.

“It means a lot to me," Tianna said.

The leadership students are also members of Sources of Strength, a best-practice youth suicide prevention program that uses peer social networks to change unhealthy norms and culture.

Classmates Zach Ballard and Grace Bentz both shared their appreciation for the pull tab project.

“Her first idea was like, ‘Hey, we should help the Ronald McDonald House,’ I’m like, ‘Yo, that’s a good idea,’" Zach said. "We all jumped in on that real quick.”

"I’ve only heard about it a couple times before this, so it was really nice to learn more about it,” Grace said. "I think it would be really fun to volunteer and also get a tour."

Weber gifted Tianna red-and-white striped Ronald McDonald socks “for telling her story and for making it all happen.”

“You guys are awesome,” Weber said to the students. "I know that there is heart and soul when I look into your faces and I see what you’re all about and what you’ve done today. It’s just this spark you guys, and it grows and grows and it becomes who you are. And it brings your unique spark out into what you’re going to do in life."

Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Inland Northwest provides temporary lodging, social and emotional support at no charge for families of children accessing medical services.

Info: www.rmhcinlandnw.org

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DEVIN WEEKS/Press

Ronald McDonald House Northern Idaho development coordinator Corinne Weber shares information about Ronald McDonald House Charities with Natalie Walters' leadership/Sources of Strength students at Coeur d'Alene High School on Monday.

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DEVIN WEEKS/Press

Corinne Weber and Coeur d'Alene High School junior Tianna Harrell exchange a heartfelt hug Monday morning after Tianna shared the story of how her family used a Ronald McDonald House when her baby half-sister was going through treatment before she passed away 15 years ago.