Willie Nelson with Billy Samek and his mother, Tammy, before the ‘Concert for a Cause’ onÂ September 22, 2007,Â at the Lou LaGrotto’s in Peru, Illinois.
Staff and students from 62 schools in the Illinois Valley wrote to Merry NoonanÂ and her six-member committee that work theÂ â€œConcerts For a Causeâ€ series.
While all those schools needed help, one stood out.â€I wrote an elaborate three-page letter on behalf of our school,â€ Peru Catholic School Principal Steve Brockman said. â€œUnfortunately, mine wasnâ€™t picked,â€ he said with a laugh.
â€œFortunately, a letter from one of our kindergartners, Billy Samek, was chosen. I couldnâ€™t have been more surprised and I couldnâ€™t have been more pleased.â€
Billy wrote a letter about the lack of a playground at his school.
â€œI like art and PE classes. I really like recess but all we do is walk around and kick a ball around on the blacktop,â€ he wrote. â€œWe usually end up moving because we get in the way of the big kids. If we had a playground, we could share it with the big kids.â€
That letter touched the hearts of all the committee members.Â â€œEach person went behind closed doors with the letters and each one came out with that letter as the winner,â€ said Noonan. â€œIt was unanimous.â€
WillieÂ met with Billy and his mom, Tammy, just before walking on stage.Â â€œIt was pretty exciting,â€ Tammy said. â€œWillie hugged Billy and said â€˜Nice letter, kid.â€™ Then he posed for a photo before taking the stage.â€
When the staff and students learned Willie was playing, colored ink and pencils flew as all the children designed posters with the same message.
â€œThank you, Willie!â€
Everyone expressed gratitude and appreciation throughout the evening about Nelson and his band helping build a playground for the kids â€” so much so that the Peru Catholic School, along with Noonan made sure Nelson knew how important he and his concert was to the students.
â€œWe gave him one of our white school concert volunteer shirts with a drawing of a playground and Willie playing on it,â€ Tammy said. â€œI told him that all of the kids were just so grateful for what he was doing that they all made posters and wrote letters thanking him. He told me he already knew. Merry had given him a couple of bags of letters and posters.
â€œâ€˜I plan to read them all,â€™ he told me.â€
Here’s a slideshow of some of the posters and cards given to Willie that night:
Principal Brockman e-mailed me with an update about the school’s playground today:
We have ordered the playground equipment and it should be on-site within a couple weeks. An actual ground breaking date has not been determined.Â We are excited, and of course, very grateful.