SDSU students take action after ‘Atlas’
When Winter Storm Atlas hit her family’s north Rapid City ranch killing cattle and the 5-year-old mare she had trained since she was a colt, Amanda Kammerer wasn’t home to help. The Animal Science major and South Dakota State University student was on campus in Brookings feeling quite helpless.
“I was devastated. I’ve always been really involved in my family’s ranch,” Kammerer explained.
Each time she took a call from home the reports got worse. The emotional impact the storm had on Kammerer didn’t escape her roommate, Loretta Bartosh.
“It was really tough for me to see what she was going through because we’ve been roommates and friends since our freshman year. I wanted to do something to help her,” said Bartosh.
An Agriculture Education major who grew up on a hog farm near Dundee, Minn., Bartosh was one of a small group of students who, in the midst of exams, made time to organize a benefit banquet Nov. 22 that raised more than $12,000 for the Rancher Relief Fund.
“For many of us, the storm hit close to home. I can just imagine how difficult it would be to go through something like this. You’re out there working everyday for what you have, and then one day a storm comes along and you lose it,” said Ben Stout, SDSU Students Association President. “Even if we weren’t directly impacted, most students knew someone who was. We just wanted to help out.”
A few days after the storm Stout and Bartosh met to work on a class project. Their focus was quickly redirected to the storm and discussing what they could do to help. As they visited, Drew Kraft, a friend of Bartosh’s joined the conversation. Within days, the three students had administration’s approval to organize a benefit banquet.
“It’s the type of thing that is done in the rural communities when hard times hit. You get together and have a benefit dinner to show your support for a common cause,” Stout said.
The fact that her peers cared enough to organize an event of this size meant a lot to Kammerer.
“I am so grateful. They didn’t know the extent of it, but they were willing to step up and do what they could to help,” Kammerer said.
With only six weeks to plan, the students recruited friends to help and together they canvassed campus, visiting classes and clubs to promote the event. They sold more than 450 tickets, secured speakers and student volunteers.
“In the days leading up to the banquet, I thought it would be a success if we raised $1,000,” said Kraft, an Agriculture Economics and Mathematics senior who plans to return to his family’s Wessington Springs ranch when he graduates.
Like many of his peers, Kraft was eager to help organize the banquet because on his own he could barely afford to donate $100, but knew that if the banquet was successful, he would be a part of contributing more than money to those in need.
“We were just a couple of ag kids who decided to get together and do something positive for our friends who lost so much,” Kraft said.
Entirely student-organized, the banquet was a success, raising more than $12,000 for the Rancher Relief Fund. Banquet speakers included; University President, David Chicoine; Dean of the College of Agriculture and Director of SDSU Extension, Barry Dunn; Jim Woster and rancher, Jimmie Kammerer who operates a cow/calf operation along the Belle Fourche River with her husband Riley.
“Winter Storm Atlas impacted the families and lives of many SDSU students and alumni. This banquet was one way we could all give back and help our neighbors in need,” said Dunn. “I’m proud of the students who gave of their time to organize an event of this size and grateful to those who gave generously to the Rancher Relief Fund, making this event a great success.” F
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Outtagrass Cattle Co. cartoon by Jan Swan Wood for the June 19, 2021, edition of Tri-State Livestock News