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Tigard High student remembered for heartfelt smile

Website raises thousands of dollars for Sabrina Baxter's family after tragic death


(Image is Clickable Link) Photo Credit: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Sabrina Baxter, 17, died of an undiagnosed heart condition on Aug. 4. Friends have raised nearly $5,000 for her family to pay for funeral expenses.

Tigard High School lost one of its own last week, with the death of senior Sabrina Baxter.

Sabrina, 17, died Monday, Aug. 4, from an undiagnosed heart condition, according to a medical examiner.

The news shocked the Tigard High School community and prompted two of Sabrina’s friends to step in to ensure her family is able to pay for funeral costs.

Tigard seniors Janie White and Brandi Lhotka put together a page on the crowd-funding site GoFundMe in order to raise money for Sabrina's family.

“Money is something they should not have to worry about during this hard time, and anything will help,” friends wrote on the page. “Kind words and support mean more than you can imagine.”

The account raised nearly $1,000 within a few hours after its launch and passed the $5,000 mark this week.

Donations have poured in, ranging from $5 to $500, to help pay for medical, family and funeral expenses.(Image is Clickable Link) Photo Credit: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Friends and family said that Sabrina Baxter had a contagious smile and warm personality. The 17-year-old had talked about attending college in Hawaii or California after graduating from THS.

“It shows how much people care,” said Samantha Kochanasz, Sabrina’s aunt. “It has just blown up. It’s amazing to have that kind of support. It’s nice to see how many people care about her and the family.”

Janie and Brandi, both 17, met Sabrina as children, and the three have been close ever since. They said it was the least they could do for their friend.

“I feel really helpless in this type of situation,” Janie said. “I just wanted to do anything to help support her family in whatever way we could.”

'Warms my heart'

The girls initially set the website’s goal at $3,000, but soon realized they’d surpass that goal.

“We were so surprised about how much we have been able to raise,” Janie said. “We kept checking the site, and how fast the money was raised was really incredible. It warms my heart that so many people care and want to support her family.”

And they aren’t alone, Janie said Tigard High School has plans to keep Sabrina’s memory alive during the school year.

“The school is trying to make her a part of everything,” Janie said. “From the senior sunrise to football games. We are trying to get the first game dedicated to her. We will all wear her favorite color, have a moment of silence and maybe release some balloons."

Gwenn Stover, a counselor at Tigard High School and friend of Sabrina’s, said she was touched by how the Tigard community has responded to the tragic news.

"I am incredibly proud of how our students have responded with compassion and care in the wake of her death. They are really supporting each other. Sabrina will truly be missed," she said.

Stover said the site has done much more than raise money, it has given grieving family and friends a reason to smile.

“It makes me really proud to be part of our community,” she said.

Kochanasz agreed.

“It’s not really about the money,” she said. “It’s about the number of people who have come out to support her.”Photo Credit: JANIE WHITE - Students launch balloons in memory of Sabrina Baxter on Aug. 8 at Bald Peak Park, one of Sabrina's favorite places.

‘Contagious happiness’

Sabrina attended Metzger Elementary and Fowler Middle schools before entering Tigard High four years ago.

Stover said she grew a lot as a person in her teenage years.

"Many Tigard students recall her as a friend they could rely on,” Stover said. “As her counselor, I enjoyed watching her come into her own at Tigard High and gain confidence in herself.”

Friends said Sabrina's joyful personality brought smiles to others.

“Sabrina's happiness was contagious, and she had the ability to brighten any room with her smile,” her friends wrote on the GoFundMe site.

“She had a big heart,” Janie added. “She really cared about everyone around her. She would do anything for anyone. If she would see someone that lives in her neighborhood waiting for the bus, she would make sure to ask them if they wanted a ride — even if she didn’t know them. She offered to be anyone’s friend that needed her. She was so kind to everyone.”

Paying tribute

Sabrina was out with friends when she collapsed on Monday, Aug. 4.

An autopsy would later reveal she had a pulmonary disease known as Loeffler's syndrome, Kochanasz said.

Sabrina’s symptoms were so mild that neither her friends nor her family suspected anything was wrong.

“Her mother saw her that morning, and she was fine,” Kochanasz said. “She was laughing and joking around, and then she collapsed.”

The family held a public service on Friday, Aug. 8. Brandi and Jamie organized a candlelight vigil at Bald Peak that night, where they released balloons in Sabrina’s honor.

“She really liked Bald Peak because it is so beautiful,” Janie said. “We started posting on Twitter that everyone should come to Bald Peak to let balloons go in her memory, but I didn’t expect as many people to show up as they did.”

Janie estimated that more than 100 people attended the vigil.

“We had a sheriff’s deputy show up to investigate, because he had never seen that many cars or people there,” she said. “It was really awesome.”



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