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'Lift Up Bobby' campaign in Detroit Lakes raises $14,000, far exceeding goal

The "Lift Up Bobby" fundraising campaign launched by Detroit Lakes High School students and staff last month has raised $14,000 to help longtime school IT technician Bobby Heimark get his motorized scooter in and out of his vehicle. Heimark was born with a rare congenital disorder known as AMC, which causes severe mobility issues.

Lift Up Bobby.JPG
Bobby Heimark, center, a lifetime Laker and IT technician in the Detroit Lakes school district for more than 20 years, was presented with a $14,000 check on Wednesday, April 6, 2022, representing the proceeds of a month-long fundraiser by students and staff. The money raised by the Lift Up Bobby campaign will be used to purchase a new mechanical lift that will enable Heimark to get his motorized scooter in and out of his car without assistance.
Vicki Gerdes / Detroit Lakes Tribune
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DETROIT LAKES — It's been about one month since Detroit Lakes High School students and staff started the “Lift Up Bobby” campaign to help a school staff member purchase a much-needed lift for his vehicle.

Robert Heimark, who has worked for the school district as an information technology technician for more than 20 years, was born with a rare neurological condition known as arthrogryposis multiplex congenita, or AMC.

What this means, says the 41-year-old, is that the joints in his knees and feet were almost completely immobile at birth. The entire right side of his body is affected by the congenital disorder, which afflicts about one in every 3,000 people.

Even after numerous surgeries to improve his mobility, Heimark's body continues to present him with daily challenges to getting around his hometown. As a result, he uses a motorized scooter to traverse all but extremely short distances. Unable to get the scooter in and out of his car by himself — "I can't lift anything too heavy," he says — Heimark relies on the help of his wife, Tami, to do so.

Bob and Tami Heimark.JPG
Detroit Lakes native Bob Heimark says his wife Tami is his partner and greatest supporter in dealing with the day-to-day physical challenges presented by arthrogryposis multiplex congenita, or AMC — the rare congenital disorder that he has lived with his entire life. The couple will celebrate their 17th anniversary this summer.
Vicki Gerdes / Detroit Lakes Tribune

Because they only have one vehicle, he drops her off and picks her up from work each day, leaving the scooter outside in the school parking lot in-between trips.

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Noticing that the scooter had been left sitting in a snowbank one day, DLHS teacher Mary Kvebak enlisted the help of students in her Laker Live digital media and film classes to do something. They launched a "Lift Up Bobby" campaign to not only purchase a mechanical lift for getting the scooter in and out of his vehicle, but also, as Kvebak put it, "to lift him up emotionally and support him."

The initial goal of the online fundraising campaign was $5,000, but "Lift Up Bobby" ended up raising nearly three times that. Thanks to donations and contributions from the Detroit Lakes students’ GoFundMe page, donations from district staff and community members, Detroit Lakes Rotary and Interact (i.e, student Rotary) clubs, the local Knights of Columbus, AMCSI (Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita Support Inc) and assistance from Trisha Geffree of Ready Set Fund, the “Lift Up Bobby” campaign netted $14,000.

A student assembly was held on Wednesday, April 6, to present Heimark with a giant check, representing the proceeds from the campaign.

“I’m so thankful for all of you,” Heimark said as he addressed the assembly. “I want all of you guys to remember and see what a small idea can do. (It started from) just a quick question that Mrs. Kvebak asked me a few months ago; look at everything that’s happened because of that. And it all started with you guys here.”

The funds will be used for the purchase of a lift, with any extra going toward Heimark's medical expenses, including those from a recent foot surgery from which he is still recovering.

A reporter at Detroit Lakes Newspapers since relocating to the community in October 2000, Vicki was promoted to Community News Lead for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and Perham Focus on Jan. 1, 2022. She has covered pretty much every "beat" that a reporter can be assigned, from county board and city council to entertainment, crime and even sports. Born and raised in Madelia, Minnesota, she is a graduate of Hamline University, from which she earned a bachelor's degree in English literature (writing concentration). You can reach her at vgerdes@dlnewspapers.com.
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