Michel's Story

Swimming, Biking and Running in Memory of my mother, Donna Michel

My mom is awesome! She is the most courageous and caring person I have ever known. Always determined and optimistic, she worked hard and overcame a lot of difficulty in her own life while making the best life she could for her children. She is an absolutely amazing person. I am blessed to be her son. 


Mom to three children, Donna or DJ to family and friends, Ms. Michel to her students, and JoeDonna Sparkle to those of us who were by her side during her first battle with cancer with sense of humor and optimism intact – no matter what name you knew her by, there is no denying that my mom loved books. She read to us constantly when we were little and encouraged us to learn as much as possible. She took her passion for knowledge to work with her, teaching sophomore English at Killeen High School. She loved teaching and she worked hard to keep her students engaged by designing the curriculum around them. Instead of simply reading literature and writing a paper on it, she had them create raps as poetry to describe the themes of what they had read. She showed reinterpretations of Shakespeare that her students could relate to. Instead of just handing in homework, she had them stand up and perform in class. She put in extra time with her students and gave them the attention she felt they deserved. She put in as much work with them as she had with her own children, and it showed with many of her students 

On October 28th, 2010, my mother passed away after a hard fought battle with ALK-negative anaplastic large cell lymphoma. The disease came on suddenly in the last few months of her life and moved aggressively – but it didn’t stop her from starting the school year with her students or keep her from continuing to plan for her return to the classroom when she was hospital bound. In celebration of her strength and spirit, I trained through through All Tri, a 501(c)(3) public charity, to complete my first Olympic Distance Triathlon at the Toyota US Open in Texas this October.

With the encouragement and coaching of All Tri backing me, I chose to celebrate my mom and her passion by raising over $2000 for DonorsChoose.org. She always provided paper, pens, and materials for her students who couldn't afford their own. She didn't just focus on one or two students, but worked to help all her students achieve anything they were willing to work for. Through DonorsChoose.org I can continue her work for many classrooms in need - not just one.

I can't wait to see all of those happy photos of thankful students and teachers from across the country who are able to continue their educational efforts all because of my mom’s love for her children and for teaching.