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‘Butterflies’ scholarship, talent show to aid special needs kids

Bethany Mazur always called 9-year-old Travis Anderson her "little buddy." Mazur was killed in a car accident last summer in Polk County, but her mother, Kim, is carrying on her memory through a scholarship fund for special needs children. Its first major fundraiser will be a noncompetitive talent show at The Phipps. (Submitted photo)

HUDSON -- The Mazur family’s life changed forever last summer when 28-year-old Bethany Mazur was killed in a car accident in Polk County. Bethany, the middle daughter of Hudson residents Mike and Kim Mazur, was outgoing, friends and family say; she was a creative and gentle soul who loved reading and enjoyed canoeing and camping.

But what the obituaries and the immediate news reports didn’t mention about Bethany’s life was her close connection with Travis Anderson, a 9-year-old Amery resident, who Bethany worked with for about a year during her tenure at a home healthcare agency. Whether it was playing music or being silly together, Bethany poured herself into Travis -- Kim Mazur laughs recalling that he called Bethany his “girlfriend” -- while she showed him how to take a bad day and turn it into something more positive.

Travis, a smiling and positive kid who Bethany called her “little buddy,” has autism.

Now that Bethany is gone, her family wants her memory, her work as a personal care attendant, her dedication and kind-heartedness to live on. The Mazur family has established a scholarship with Bethany’s namesake -- Bethany’s Butterflies Scholarship Fund -- aimed at helping send at least one child with special needs, such as autism, to summer camp or special events like therapeutic horseback riding. The first scholarship would be offered starting in 2017.

“I would love to see it grow and help out as many kids as we can,” Kim Mazur, Bethany’s mom, said in a recent interview.

Its first large undertaking to fund the scholarship, administered by the St. Croix Valley Foundation and its local affiliated Hudson Community Foundation, will be a talent show at The Phipps Center for the Arts on Saturday, May 14. The noncompetitive show’s proceeds from ticket sales, a 50-50 raffle and a silent auction will go to the nonprofit scholarship.

The scholarship fund is one of at least two dozen the St. Croix Valley Foundation oversees, yet a scholarship for special needs kids is rare. Bethany’s Butterflies is paving the way for something new in this area.

Margi Miller, SCV’s director of affiliate development, said while the nonprofit organization handles the behind-the-scenes office work for a number of grants and scholarships throughout the valley, the local affiliate, the Hudson Community Foundation, does the legwork.

“It’s a way to remember this remarkable young woman and to do good work in the community,” Miller said.

‘A transformation’

Months before Bethany’s life ended in tragedy in 2015, she had a surgery, her mom said. Bethany requested the post-operation report from doctors, only to discover she had nearly died while on the operating table.

Bethany arrived home one day to find a plant friends had given her. It was decorated with butterflies.

“She saw it and almost cried,” Kim Mazur said. “With surgery and everything going on in her life, she was kind of having a metamorphosis -- a transformation in her life. When she died we wanted to carry on her kind heart for others... We sat down to talk and decided we wanted to establish a scholarship in her memory. Because of her connection with Travis we wanted to do something to transform them for a while.”

The transformation wasn’t just in Bethany’s life either. Kim Mazur notes that Travis’ mom, Pam, said her family’s life was transformed because of Bethany: Travis acted better in his interactions with Bethany; she helped him overcome some struggles with texture that children with autism sometimes face.

“She had a special gift of teaching him,” Pam Anderson wrote in a poster for Bethany’s memorial. “Bethany taught him to have a positive attitude even when he was having a bad day. To this day he still has that positive attitude when things aren't going well. Whenever Bethany was around Travis was smiling.”

Talent, donations needed

The noncompetitive family-friendly talent show -- billed as “You’ve got nerve talent show” -- will be at The Phipps on Saturday, May 14. But it won’t happen without some community help. Kim Mazur, a regular volunteer at The Phipps, has collected some donations for raffles and silent auction items but she needs more.

Mazur’s hope is that a community will recognize a need and pour out its support -- the way her daughter supported Travis; the way the Mazurs hope the scholarship will support children with special needs or autism in an unprecedented way.

To donate time, money, efforts, talents by April 20, or to buy tickets to the event, email Mazur at bethanysbutterflies@gmail.com or contact The Phipps at 715-386-2305. General admission tickets are $15.

For more information on Bethany’s Butterflies Scholarship Fund, or to donate to it, visit http://www.scvfoundation.org/give-now/bethanys-butterflies-scholarship-fund.

“It’s a good thing and I just would love to see it be successful,” Mazur said.