Schools put rivalry aside to help crash survivor

About 16 miles separate Pinckneyville and Nashville, Illinois, but that distance feels a lot closer today despite a school rivalry between the two communities.

“It’s a highly competitive rivalry, and we go toe to toe from bell to bell, and whistle to whistle,” said Pinckneyville Superintendent Keith Hagene.

Students at Pinckneyville are putting the rivalry aside for 7-year-old Sailor Gutzler of Nashville, who survived a plane crash that claimed the lives of her mom, dad, sister, and cousin.

“Coach Waggoner thought that we should do an organization to try and raise money for this little girl,” said Ellie Carlson. “The first thing I’ve thought of was a bake sale.”

“We’ve done bake sales in the past and it hasn’t been like this,” said Lexi Hepp. “There was a line all the way to the other wall which we didn’t expect and some kids would just come up and give money.”

Pinckneyville students collected money at Tuesday night’s basketball game, as well as through a cake shoot and 50/50 raffle.

Friday night, the Pinckneyville student section and band will wear shirts with a message for Sailor as Nashville’s #1 ranked boys basketball team comes to town.

“It’s going to mean a lot,” said Nathan Bauarsachs. “I hope the little girl is at the game, but I don’t know if she will be but to see all of those shirts in the stands is going to be awesome.”

“This is bigger than just a basketball game,” said Hepp. “It’s showing that we care and that we’re here. It’s no longer just a rivalry it’s more of us caring and becoming instead of just two different towns.”

The money will be donated to the Sailor Gutzler fund, which has been set up to help with her educational expenses.

Sailor is currently in the care of her older half-sister until her long term guardianship is decided.

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