Dawn Thurnau’s favorite Bible verse is 1 Thessalonians 5:11, which says, “Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up, as indeed you do.” Dawn puts these words into action each day through her service to the Tolton community. Her willingness to put in so much work to recognize others, without recognition for herself, make her all the more worthy of this year’s Fr. Augustus Tolton Service Award.
Thurnau and her husband Jason live in Hartsburg with their daughter Claire, a sophomore at Tolton. After hearing of Tolton’s higher ACT scores and scholarship dollars, the Thurnau’s attended an open house, curious more than anything. “We were quickly impressed by the faith-based community of high achievers that was focused on preparing students for the college of their choice,” Dawn said. “During [Claire’s] shadow visit, she came home talking about how many people made a point to welcome her and she was impressed that the faculty in the classes she shadowed used hands-on and activity-based learning.”
As a freshman, Claire joined the cheerleading team and Dawn became involved as a team mom, helping with team meals before away games, graphic design for social media, party decorations, and making the girls feel special and appreciated during competitions.
“Dawn has been a HUGE help to our team!” Coach Laura Sasser said. “She is so creative and always willing to help when needed.” Each year Dawn also comes up with door decorations for the team’s hotel rooms prior to competitions and creates a fun team gift. When the cheer team started a new Homecoming Mums fundraiser, Dawn did most of the research and product finding so coaches could focus on getting the team ready.
Dawn refers to her involvement with the cheer team as a hobby, more than a service opportunity. “Some people knit, some people fish, I find joy in planning events and making spirit gifts to help people realize they’re important,” Dawn said.
Not knowing many families coming into Tolton, Dawn quickly signed up for a lunch room shift when she heard there was a need. It soon became her favorite community service work. “Being part of the lunch routine allows me to see the students in their natural habitat and get to know what makes them tick,” Dawn said. “I am fortunate to have gotten to know other parents who are fun, interesting, and live out their faith.”
Another important way that Thurnau gives back to the Tolton community is by running the Booster Club’s relatively new Facebook page (facebook.com/TCHSBoosters). Dawn wanted to be more involved with the Boosters, but it was difficult for her to make the monthly meetings. She runs social media accounts for businesses through her job at MOREnet, so she volunteered to take on the Booster Club page. She said the goal of the Facebook page is to boost participation and pride.
“One of the things that sets Tolton apart is the variety of activities- from Aquarium Club to Pro-Life Club to Christian Diversity Club,” Dawn said. “We want to provide easy access to find information on all our sports teams and recognize the efforts and accomplishments of all students when they represent our school with their talents.”
One of the highlights of the year for Dawn was tracking the progress of our new girls swimming team this year. She was also amazed by the amount of engagement online with posts about the wrestling team.
“As a volunteer, Dawn has maintained the Booster Club Facebook page a million times better than most businesses with a paid staff person. She uses her professional talents and creativity to give back in a unique way and the whole Tolton community really benefits from her dedication,” said Joe Bradley, Tolton’s Communications Coordinator.
Dawn asks that any parent that has photos and updates of our students representing Tolton to feel free to send it via messenger to the Tolton Booster Facebook page.
In addition to her involvement at Tolton, Thurnau will wrap up a 5-year term on the Southern Boone Economic Development Council Board this summer and serves the President of the Southern Boone Nacho Club, a group of old and new friends who get together to eat Mexican food and talk about community betterment.
The Tolton Catholic community has benefited greatly from Dawn’s selflessness and we feel fortunate to call her family Trailblazers.
“I really am humbled and touched by the award,” Dawn said. “I really haven’t done anything extraordinary in my volunteer work. The Bible tells us to use our gifts to serve others as faithful stewards. I see so many people every day working behind the scenes to better our Fr. Tolton Catholic Community. It’s what makes this school so special.”