UIU helps bring smiles to teenager and community

An elated Jackson Pagel displays the sold out Taylor Swift concert tickets given to the Middleton, Wis., teenager on Thursday, July 16, by Upper Iowa University-Madison Center (l-r) academic advisor Mallory Zwettler, director Kim Valenza and admissions advisor Jason Santore. Pagel is battling osteosarcoma, a rare cancerous bone tumor, and is serving as the 2015 Middleton Battle of the Badges Charity Softball & 5K Run honoree.

It’s amazing the amount of happiness one smile can bring to an entire community. When such a smile swept across the face of Middleton, Wis., teenager Jackson Pagel on Thursday, July 16, his joy was truly shared by everyone around him.

A year ago, Pagel was diagnosed with osteosarcoma and has since been undergoing treatment in an effort to fight the rare cancerous bone tumor. On Thursday, the 15-year-old conducted the coin flip of the annual Battle of the Badges Charity Softball & 5K Run in Middleton. The event raises awareness and funds to assist families affected by childhood cancer and Pagel is its 2015 honoree.

Through the teamwork of Upper Iowa University-Madison Center, Madison iHeart Radio station Z104, Middleton Police Department, and Middleton Fire District, Pagel discovered after the ceremonial flip of the coin that he was actually the winner. It was at that moment that the local officials presented him with a pair of tickets to attend his music idol Taylor Swift’s sold out concert at Soldier Field in Chicago on Sunday, July 19.

“The entire process was a gift to everyone that was involved. To be able to bring joy to someone else is just awesome,” said Kimberly Valenza, UIU-Madison Center director. “This was a simple act of kindness that rippled throughout the community. We should all think of ways ‘to pay it forward’ in our lives.”

Valenza explained that UIU-Madison initially received the two complimentary tickets from iHeart Radio, but she promptly indicated the University would rather “pay it forward.” In discussions with the local radio station she was made aware of Pagel’s ongoing fight with cancer, his adoration for Swift, a Middleton Police Twitter campaign to see if Swift would give her fan a shout out, and an online tribute video for him that was created by a group of his Middleton High School friends.

Upper Iowa University had found its “payee.” In addition to quickly agreeing that the tickets should be passed onto Pagel, a video featuring personnel from Upper Iowa, Z104, and the Middleton PD was created to be viewed prior to the ticket presentation on Thursday.

“Everyone was just super excited to be involved and it all came together so fast. I know we at the UIU-Madison Center were all very excited when this opportunity presented itself and were equally proud to represent the entire University in providing this wonderful surprise to Jackson,” Valenza stressed. “Things like this bring out the best in a community and everyone should be applauded. To see that smile on Jackson’s face…it was beautiful!”

The UIU/Z104/Middleton PD and Middleton High School tribute videos can be viewed at www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ynth6CsJZzQ and www.youtube.com/watch?v=WxqfP_KTgSo, respectively.


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