Family tragedy strengthens volunteer's focus
As a 4-H member for nine years, Mikaela Bjorn has long been recognized as an emerging community leader with strong convictions.
Then about a year ago, in April 2018, tragedy struck the Bjorn family as Mikaela's 4-year-old sister, Kirsten, died in a drowning accident. Kirsten was at a Colton day care when she went under water in a pond on the property.
While the loss of her vivacious sister was devastating to Mikaela, she decided to channel her emotions into a project that would honor her sister's memory while improving the lives of others in her community.
This winter, Mikaela organized the Magical Daddy-Daughter Dinner Dance as a positive community activity and to raise funds for her cause to fund swimming lessons for local preschool children. Mikaela says that her sister's death eventually renewed her focus in helping others.
"Just before we took my sister off the respirator, I told her that everything I will do will be in honor of her," Mikaela says.
After consulting with a neurosurgeon and seeking multiple medical opinions, the Bjorn family decided to remove Kirsten from life support on April 30, 2018. She breathed on her own for several hours before dying peacefully with her family by her side, according to volunteer firefighter Tim Behrens, a first responder who was on scene and spent time at the hospital with the family.
The Magical Daddy-Daughter Dinner Dance, held at Camp Colton on Feb. 16, was a sold-out event. The theme of the night was based on Kirsten's favorite things: unicorns, rainbows, glitter and all things magical.
"I did the Daddy-Daughter Dinner Dance as my senior project for my sister because I knew how much she loved it last year," Mikaela says. "I wanted to put the money that I raised to pay for swimming lessons for the kids in my sister's preschool class."
Mikaela is keenly aware that accidents can always happen, but hopes that the swimming lessons will encourage water safety. She says people are more than welcome to donate to the cause by calling Colton Elementary School at 503-824-3536.
In order to use the beautiful Camp Colton venue for the dance fundraiser, Mikaela spent 100 hours onsite pulling invasive species from the grounds in exchange for use of the space.
Mikaela is continuing to support a healthier community in many other ways, too. Ronald McDonald House put a lot of effort into helping her sister, so Mikaela plans to put together a dinner to benefit the local nonprofit organization.
In April, Mikaela hosted a Red Cross blood drive, which also benefited the Oregon Food Bank's food, education, agriculture, solutions, together (FEAST) mission. This year's FEAST event, held April 6 at Camp Colton, was successful as six groups formed to find ways to generate fresh food sharing, meal sharing, food preservation and education for students and adults.
Mikaela's 4-H leaders aren't surprised at all by her success.
"She is a young woman who sets challenging goals and knows how to follow through on them," says Jan Williams, Clackamas County Extension 4-H faculty. "The 4-H program is known for growing leaders who make a positive impact on their communities."
Mikaela's favorite programs in 4-H are dogs and leadership. She is a member of the Diggity Dogs 4-H Club.
Mikaela's 4-H leaders praise her mentoring ability. As the 4-H Club Junior Leader, Mikaela is always encouraging younger youth who are struggling to train their dogs. Her positivity is infectious. With her years of experience, Mikaela is a resource for adults as well, always ready to jump in and help at a show or clinic.
Editor, Clackamas Review/Oregon City News
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