Custodian’s Fund Draws to a Close


Betsy Wait

The fund to help Ollie has come a long way, from $150 to 30K in just over a week.

While the sounds of loud music and endless chattering voices bounded off the walls, the committed and hard-working custodial staff went about their work. But something not all that optimistic was underneath it all; custodian Ollie Caruthers was also battling liver cancer. Little did he know, two passionate students had secretly started a fund to raise money for the Caruthers.

Fast forward to several weeks later: the small fund has exploded, smashing its way through previous goals to round up 30K for Caruthers and his wife Barbara, who has lost her vision.

“I didn’t know anything about it until Scott Bollmann called me and let me know that they had set it up; they kept me from it and then they let me know. I was so overwhelmed, I had tears in my eyes,” Caruthers said.

After receiving countless thank-yous from students, alumni and staff in a GoFundMe fundraiser, it’s no wonder that Caruthers is feeling this way.

Starting when junior Emily Wind overheard a discussion in the halls about Caruthers’ battle with cancer, she teamed up with junior Shannon Anderson to collect donations from students at lunch. When the story hit social media, the positive response was almost immediate, drawing in comments of encouragement from alumni and current students plus thousands of views.

English teacher Valerie Townsend, with advice from alumni, began the online GoFundMe page. Within 24 hours the Parkway community had gathered over 5K from students, parents, teachers, and even past West graduates.

“Kids who graduated 10 or more years ago, families who have long since hung up their Columbia blue gear have reached out. I’ve always known West to be an altruistic, giving school but this…wow,” Townsend, said.

If you ask any member of the West community about Caruthers, there are hundreds of stories to be shared about his kindness.

“Ollie is a great guy who is always looking out for the students. I graduated in 2011 and still remember him,” alumni Betty Liao commented on the donation page. “Thank you Ollie for all that you’ve given to the West High community.”

Caruthers’s fund quickly grew from hundreds of dollars to thousands, drawing the attention of multiple local news broadcasts. During their 9 p.m. show on Nov. 6, St. Louis’ Fox 2 News ran a story on Ollie, spreading awareness on his fund to the community.

“I’m still shocked overall. We were hoping we could get5K; we would be very excited about that,” Dr. Jeremy Mitchell, West High principal said.

On Nov. 14 the Go Fund Me site will close and West High will present Caruthers with over 33K at lunch on Tuesday, Nov. 25.

“I knew the kids liked me, but now I know they love me,” Caruthers said.