VSHS Student Senate members presented producer Brent Wilkins a check for $1,500 to help complete the documentary on the life of John Gualtier.

The Vinton-Shellsburg High School Student Senate led the fund-raising effort that brought in $1,500 for the “Hero Among Us” documentary about the life of Vinton veteran and WWII medic John Gualtier.

Advisor Rachelle Rammelsberg presented a $1,500 check to producer Brent Watkins, who told the students and veterans gathered that he is trying to raise $20,000 in donations, and has applied a Iowa Humanities grant which would match that amount. He is also seeking in-kind contributions, which include labor, materials and venues for filming or showing the documentary.

The students raised more than $600 from Thursday’s hat and sweats day, when staff and students at both the middle school and high school donated to the project. The raffle of several baskets, which took place at both the basketball game and the Vinton American Legion’s Friday meal, raised several hundred dollars more.

Watkins met Gualtier through the Thaler Holocaust Memorial Fund, which was established in 1995 by Dr. David and Joan Thaler to help projects that further education about the Holocaust. He has already finished a 13-minute short documentary on Gualtier’s life.

Veterans and Student Senate members posed for a photo with Brent Watkins and John Gualtier.

Several local veterans, including VFW members, joined Gualtier at the high school, where he was introduced at halftime. The local VFW members are working with VFW Iowa Department leaders in an attempt to share Gualtier’s story in VFW state and national publications.

The VSHS fund-raiser began after Rammelsberg, who is in her first year as Student Senate advisor, saw  the story and documentary about Gualtier on Vinton today, and was moved to tears as she watched the movie.

“I want to thank our Student Senate for putting so much effort and hard work into this,” she said. “I gave them the idea and the students ran with it.”

Everyone worked very hard to make the fund-raiser a success, says the advisor.

“I honestly had a goal of raising $500 when I presented the idea to the students,” Rammelsberg said. “So to know that we raised three times that amount has left me personally humbled by all the love and support our school district and community receive. I would also like to thank Brent Watkins for taking the time to come down to see what our community is about and how much we all support each other. The biggest thanks of all is to John Gualtier. I can’t thank him enough for his time served as a WWII combat medic for our country, for all the freedoms and choices he fought to protect, and for coming to speak to our students about things he has gone through in his life.”

A new web site tells people more about the project and its goals, and also offers donors a chance to contribute. See that Hero Among Us page HERE.

See more photos of the students’ fund-raising events from last week at VSHS HERE.

The You Tube version of the documentary has been taken down, because Watkins made some revisions. You can see the film HERE.