By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Only a few times, collecting more than 300,000 cans and bottles was as gross as it might sound.
Of course there was some mold, and a few bags had dead mice in them. Once, a bag was filled with ants, and Katie Sesi and her family would find them crawling around their car for the next month.
Another time, a duck bit her.
But those are just some of the funnier memories that were more than worth the opportunity for Sesi to meet and help an untold number of people, beginning when she was 6 years old – truly a life’s work so far for the Ann Arbor Huron junior.
Sesi is a recipient of an MHSAA/Lake Trust Credit Union “Community Service Award” for her work raising $40,000 over the last decade for University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. Playing her violin at the Ann Arbor Art Fair annually beginning in elementary school, and then taking on a can drive that’s seen her canvass neighborhoods all over her city and surrounding area, Sesi has managed to raise $10,000 every two years since 2010.
She’s also met at least 50 of her donors over that decade and received in the neighborhood of 300 letters from people encouraging her work and asking how else they might help.
“Meeting new people is just a good experience. It’s really interesting to learn about other people’s lives,” Sesi said. “My favorite part was the personal interaction. When I started doing the can drives, I didn’t think I’d talk to a bunch of people and learn their life stories. But people leave me notes that say, ‘Hey, you should come talk to me.’ For me, just talking to people is really fun. The unexpected chance to meet more people has been very memorable.”
It’s also an incredible story, considering Sesi’s decision to start lending a hand as barely an elementary schooler.
She’s played the violin since she was 3, and recalled reading a newspaper article about two girls playing their violins at a similar outside event. She thought to herself, I should do the same. Her mother, Yvonne Sesi, challenged her to make it happen.
Katie then realized that being 6, she didn’t really need the money people would give her while passing by. So she began saving toward what would eventually become that first $10,000 donation.
At 9, with her mom at the wheel, Katie started her can drives. The first netted only $9. But she didn’t give up. At times she would work neighborhoods every weekend, leaving a flier at people’s houses explaining her mission and letting them know when she’d be back to collect.
Soon, the car was regularly full with the front seats moved up as far as possible to make room for the overflowing supply of returnables. She estimates she’s collected cans and bottles “several hundred” times.
Sesi’s first donation to C.S. Mott went toward building “The Treehouse” indoor playground, and subsequent donations have gone toward research of childhood cancers and the hospital’s Child and Family Life center, which provides support for patients and their families during treatment.
Yvonne is a doctor, and Katie is interested in becoming a pediatric oncologist (or going into business, or perhaps both). Helping children is especially close to her heart; one of her most memorable can drive interactions came with a family that had lost a son to lymphoma who had been treated at Mott; they invited her in to meet their newborn daughter they’d adopted after his death.
She’s choosing to donate half of her $1,000 award to U-M’s Chad Tough Fund, which directs funds to childhood cancer research in honor of Chad Carr, the grandson of retired Wolverines coach Lloyd Carr who died in November 2015 at age 5 after a fight with pediatric brain cancer. She’ll donate the other half of her award to the Ann Arbor Huron girls tennis team; she’s an all-state No. 1 singles player and team captain.
A regular in some neighborhoods, where people recognize her from past drives, Sesi said she’s learned a lot about perseverance and hard work – but again, is most inspired by the many people she’s met along the way.
“I knew early on that I wanted the money to go to children with cancer because it seemed to me completely unfair that kids should be denied a carefree and fun childhood,” Sesi wrote in her application for the award. “All together, I found that people have tremendous hearts and an unlimited capacity for supporting, helping and giving to others."
The Community Service Awards are sponsored by the Michigan High School Athletic Association and Lake Trust Credit Union to recognize student-athletes' efforts to improve the lives of others in their communities. In addition to the $1,000 award, the Lake Trust Foundation is awarding an additional $500 to each honoree, to be donated to a non-profit, 501 (c)(3) organization of the awardee’s choice.
PHOTOS: (Top) Katie Sesi, next to her violin case, has played to raise money every summer since she was 6 at the Ann Arbor Art Fair. (Middle) Sesi has received hundreds of notes like this one thanking her for her efforts. (Photos courtesy of Katie Sesi.)
2017 Community Service Awards
To provide for the convenience and safety of spectators attending the Michigan High School Athletic Association 11-Player Football Finals on Nov. 25 and 26 at Ford Field in Detroit, attendees are being advised of a variety of items related to transportation and security – including policies regarding parking, seating and types of bags allowed into the stadium.
Parking will be available in Ford Field facilities and lots to the east and north of the stadium and costs $8. A map identifying the designated Ford Field lots (4, 5 and 6) and parking deck can be found on the Football page under “Tracking the Tournament.” (There also are a number of privately-operated parking facilities close to Ford Field, but their pricing may differ.)
Fans also are advised that the consumption of alcohol is prohibited in Ford Field parking facilities and lots, and smoking – including use of electronic cigarettes and vaporizers – is prohibited inside the stadium. Tailgating, including the setting up and use of grilling equipment, also is not allowed.
Tickets are priced at $20 and allow a fan to see all four games in a single day. Tickets are available for purchase at the door (cash or credit accepted), from participating schools, or online from Ford Field via Ticketmaster – links to order tickets both days also are on the MHSAA Website football page. Spectators leaving the stadium will be required to purchase another ticket for re-entry. Infants able to be held in arms will be admitted without charge for this event. There will not be a public Will Call window.
Spectators may enter Ford Field at Gates A & B. Upon arrival in the building, fans will find their designated seating areas on the South side of the field if their team is the designated home team for their contest and on the North side for the designated visiting team. Home teams this weekend are Belleville, Warren De La Salle Collegiate, Mason, Harper Woods, Corunna, Almont, Jackson Lumen Christi and Ottawa Lake Whiteford. Brightly-lit video boards above the seating areas will display the names of the participating teams each day, and fans should sit on the side of the stadium where they see their school’s name. For general fans, the entire lower bowl of Ford Field will be open for the event.
Security measures also will be in place to help assure spectator safety. Fans will be subject to metal detector screening, and Ford Field personnel reserve the right to request patrons open their coats, bags and other item-carrying vessels for visual inspection and deny entrance to individuals who do not cooperate. Spectators should remove cell phones, cameras, keys and other large metal objects before passing through the metal detectors.
Items which fans will be prohibited from bringing into the building include, but are not limited to, the following:
* Purses larger than a clutch bag, coolers, briefcases, backpacks, book bags, diaper bags, fanny packs, cinch bags, grocery & paper bags; duffle bags, computer bags or luggage of any kind.
* Aerosol cans (hairspray, mace, pepper spray, etc.)
* Animals (except service animals to aid guests with disabilities)
* Balloons (air or helium)
* Balls (beach balls, footballs, etc.)
* Banners or large flags
* Cameras with lenses longer than five inches or any detachable lens. Selfie Sticks also are prohibited.
* Chairs including folding chairs or stools
* Decals, stickers, confetti or glitter
* Drones and/or remote-controlled aircraft
* Electronic equipment including laptop computers, video recorders (hand-held video cameras are allowed), tripods and wearable video cameras including Go Pros.
* Food, beverages – including water – or liquids (cans, bottles, boxes, flasks, etc.)
* Illegal substances
* Knives, pocketknives, box cutters, scissors, etc.
* Laser pointers
* Marijuana including medically prescribed electronic accessories or paraphernalia associated with marijuana or illegal narcotics use.
* Markers (permanent) and/or paint
* Noisemaking devices (bells, horns, kazoos, whistles, etc.)
* Objects that can be used as missiles or projectiles (sticks, poles, bats, clubs, Frisbees, etc.)
* Strollers and infant car seats or carriers
* Umbrellas (large size)
* Wrapped gifts
The following items may be permitted after inspection:
* Bags that are clear plastic, vinyl or PVC and do not exceed 12 inches by 6 inches by 12 inches, or a one-gallon clear plastic freezer bag (Ziploc or similar). An exception will be made for medically necessary items after proper inspection at the Gate.
* Infant items in a clear bag (bottles and formula) only if accompanied by a child
* Binoculars and binoculars cases not exceeding 4½ inches by 6½ inches may be brought in via one of the clear plastic bag options.
* Cameras (lenses may not measure longer than five inches or be detachable, and no tripods or extension cords)
* Small radios (no larger than the size of a football and used with an earpiece)
* Small, compact umbrellas (must be placed securely under seat)
* Posters and signs without poles or sticks, or larger than what one person can hold.
* Tablets (iPads, Kindles, etc.)
* Seat cushions not exceeding 15 inches by 15 inches. Seat cushions also must not contain arm rests, zippers, pockets, flaps or metal backs.
The complete list of prohibited items can be found on the Detroit Lions website. Prohibited items that are discovered during security inspections at stadium entrances must be returned to the owner's vehicle or discarded. Items will not be held for later pickup.
Fans are reminded that all image taking (still and video) may be only for personal, non-commercial use.
The MHSAA is a private, not-for-profit corporation of voluntary membership by more than 1,500 public and private senior high schools and junior high/middle schools which exists to develop common rules for athletic eligibility and competition. No government funds or tax dollars support the MHSAA, which was the first such association nationally to not accept membership dues or tournament entry fees from schools. Member schools which enforce these rules are permitted to participate in MHSAA tournaments, which attract more than 1.4 million spectators each year.