Like many others across the state, Tori Benders and Rhea Riedlinger heard the news Friday from Sidney and felt compelled to reach out.
School officials in town had confirmed that Sidney High math teacher Sherry Arnold was dead and two men were being held by law enforcement.
“We both felt kind of sick about it,” Benders said.
Benders and Riedlinger are members of the Laurel High Student Council and wanted to help. They don’t know Arnold or her family, and they have no ties to Sidney and have never visited the town.
But the tragedy seemed overwhelming and they wanted to respond somehow.
“It just kind of hit home for us,” Benders said. “They’re a small town, we’re a small town.”
Initially, they struck on the idea of launching a scholarship fund for the Sidney community, named in honor of Arnold’s memory.
However, a teacher at Laurel High whose mother lives in Sidney told the teenagers that a scholarship fund had already been created.
Instead, Benders and Riedlinger will hold a fundraiser and donate the money to a Sidney-based charity that reflects the interests and concerns of Arnold.
They plan to talk to friends of Arnold to get an idea of what she was passionate about and where best to donate the money.
They announced the plan Friday at school. The response, they said, has been overwhelmingly positive. Laurel played basketball against Glendive on Saturday, and many from the Glendive crowd expressed support.
“We’ve had a lot of people come up and personally thank us,” Riedlinger said.
The student council will be collecting donations at all of Laurel High’s home sporting events for the next month. Donations also can be mailed to the school itself.
“We want to help,” Benders said.