Losing a parent as a child brings pain and heartache that no person wants to experience.
For De Soto senior Fletcher Helgeson, that trauma became all too real.
When Helgeson was a sixth-grader, his father lost a long battle with depression. Through the grieving and pain, Helgeson fought his way out of darkness and into a life of hard work, high goals and gratitude.
With counseling, family and close friends, he found the confidence to be himself again and grow into the person that he is today.
“It was a major help,” he said of his support circle. “It was insanely helpful for everything. It made everything easier.”
Because of Helgeson’s can-do attitude along with his dedication to succeed in and out of the classroom, he was selected as De Soto High School’s recipient of the La Crosse Tribune Extra Effort Award.
Before he became the active student and athlete that he is now, Helgeson went through a grieving process that helped him realize that keeping busy was crucial to getting back on track.
“At first it was tough,” he said. “But as I started to get back to hanging out with people and keeping busy, it got easier. Being around friends kept me happy.”
Many of those friends shared an interest with the senior — sports. In the fall, Helgeson has played wide receiver and cornerback with the football team and switches to pitching and covering second base in the spring.
In honor of Helgeson’s dad and others affected by depression, the football team wore yellow socks during one of their games this fall to raise awareness and create more understanding on the topic. The touching gesture created more assurance for Helgeson, who realized his teammates were more like a family.
“It’s awesome to know that they’ll (teammates) have my back no matter what,” he said. “They’re like family. Everyone in the high school is like family and they’ve all supported me throughout my journey.”
From the sports fields to the classroom, Helgeson can be found putting his all into everything he does. From taking challenging courses such as calculus to hands-on classes in the shop, his hard work is visible to many, including football coach Ev Wick.
“He’s definitely a good kid to work with on and off the field,” Wick said. “He’s always been a team-first kind of kid and he’s willing to help out and do whatever’s asked of him.”
That’s why Helgeson gives back to the community that helped him. As a member of De Soto’s National Honor Society, he volunteers at events such as the John Cina Cancer Benefit while assisting in the flood cleanup efforts in Stoddard.
After graduation, Helgeson plans to attend Western Technical College in pursuit of a career in construction. Once he has experience and knowledge in the industry, Helgeson, with the help of his two older brothers, plan to re-open the construction business that their dad started.
“I always think about him and he’s always in the back of my mind, especially in construction classes,” he said. “In time, I hope that we can start it (the family business) back up and get it running again. That was his passion.”