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Small community with big hearts, close ties to St. Luke's honors school nurse with donation

David Richardson, Valley Elementary School principal Jamie Kohtz, Dr. Jessica Thibault, Valley first grade teacher Tina Tarchione and special education teacher Jennifer Hardy at St. Luke's Cancer Institute in Magic Valley with some of the 70 donated blankets in Gail Richardson's honor.
By Kelly Franson, News and Community
March 14, 2024

Valley School District in Hazelton, about 20 miles east of Twin Falls, may not be Idaho’s biggest, but the students, staff and surrounding community have huge hearts.

When beloved school nurse Gail Richardson passed away in late October, Valley Elementary School principal Jamie Kohtz started a service project in her honor — making blankets to donate to St. Luke’s Cancer Institute in Twin Falls, where Richardson had undergone treatment.

“Gail meant the world to us, and I know that she loved Valley and all the kids, the staff, Dr. (Jessica) Thibault … we just wanted to do this for her and in her memory,” Kohtz said.

Gail Richardson

The connection was strong with her oncologist, Dr. Thibault, beyond her great care – she graduated from Valley High School. When Kohtz reached out to ask if the Cancer Institute could use blankets, Dr. Thibault told her the donation would be greatly appreciated.

“I think for anybody going through (chemo) it’s a challenge, and any little piece of comfort or any little help we can give them can be huge,” Thibault said. “That first day especially is usually overwhelming and they don’t know what to expect, so a little bit of comfort goes a long way.”

Kohtz asked the Hazelton-area community for fabric donations, hoping for enough to make 10-20 blankets. They ended up with enough for 70.

Each included a note that read "This blanket was made with love by the K-12 students in the Valley School District in memory of our school nurse, Gail Richardson. She was a wonderful person, a loyal friend and cared deeply for the students at staff at Valley. We hope this blanket brings you peace and comfort as you go through this difficult time."

“We got so much more than we ever dreamed we would get,” Kohtz said. “All of the elementary kids participated in making the blankets. A couple of high school classes helped, and we have some middle schoolers who helped us cut.”

Dropping off the blankets was a bittersweet day for Kohtz, who made the trip to St. Luke’s with Richardson’s husband, David, along with first grade teacher Tina Tarchione and special education teacher Jennifer Hardy.

“Gail taught us so much about courage and stick-with-it-ness,” said Hardy, with tears in her eyes. “The world is not the same without her for sure.”

But thanks to the recent donation in her name, that courage and perseverance will be reflected every day at St. Luke’s Cancer Institute.

About The Author

Kelly Franson is the public relations manager at St. Luke's Magic Valley.