Behind the Baskets

MMS parent Dawn Scher Thomae recounts a decade of creating themed baskets for the Spaghetti Dinner Raffle


Milwaukee Montessori School does not operate without the dedicated support and commitment of a wide variety of people. Every now and then we get an opportunity to take a step back and reflect on some of those people that help make MMS truly feel like a family. As many of you know, this year’s Spaghetti Dinner (which will be held on February 2nd) is fast approaching. Those of you who have attended Spaghetti Dinner in the past can attest to the wide variety of shoebox raffle items ranging from tickets to Brewer games to Lego creations to beautiful themed baskets featuring items such as supplies for science experiments and ingredients for an Indian dinner. One of the parents who has been instrumental in making Spaghetti Dinner, and the shoebox raffle in particular, a success is Junior High parent Dawn Scher Thomae.

Dawn and her husband Joe have had two children pass through the halls of MMS, first their daughter Alexandra, who graduated in 2010 and now attends Greendale High School, and Jacob, who will be graduating this spring. From day one, Dawn and Joe have looked for ways to get involved and support the MMS community.

In 2003, inspired by the baskets she saw at an auction for Pius XI High School, Dawn found a new way to support MMS and the Spaghetti Dinner. “I saw an outlet for my volunteering spirit that would be conducive with my work schedule. I wanted to help the school but did not have time during the week. Contributing to the Spaghetti Dinner seemed an excellent way to devote time and energy for a specific amount of dedicated time.”

Since she began making baskets a decade ago, Dawn estimates she has probably contributed around 550 auction donations, most of which have been baskets. When asked if she had a favorite creation she stated: “There are so many; I really don’t have one basket that was particularly memorable. I like each basket I create, but try and focus on what the kids, parents, and MMS staff might like. I observe what is popular at the previous Spaghetti Dinner and include more of those types of baskets.” It’s the reaction of the Spaghetti Dinner attendees that has continued to motivate her to make these baskets year after year. “I get a thrill every year watching the kids get so excited about the baskets I have created,” says Dawn. “I truly enjoy watching their faces when they have won a basket.”

This creative process no doubt takes incredible amounts of planning and organization. Dawn explains, “I usually start working on the baskets in November and focus on completing about five baskets at a time. I buy things throughout the year that correspond to possible basket themes. I always had gift drawers for ‘emergency’ presents and things that I buy throughout the year for birthdays and holidays. I also tend to re-gift a few items. The arranging of basket items and the selection of themes are more part of an organic process; if I see something that suggests a possible basket theme, I will buy it. I am inspired by all sorts of things around me.”

So you might be asking, ‘what does her family think about all of this?’ “Initially, the kids thought I was a bit wacky to do so many baskets, but now they periodically suggest themes and they have been involved in finding items for specific themes when we go shopping. Joe and the kids have also helped tremendously by delivering the baskets to the school on an almost daily basis through January.”

Now that her time at MMS is almost over, Dawn is preparing for life after all the planning, organizing and creative thought that goes into making these baskets. “I have been planning for this transition for a few years so I have been paring down annually, but I will continue to contribute baskets for the Spaghetti Dinner in the coming years.”

It is this type of dedication, commitment, and generosity that makes MMS great. Without these attributes in our community, MMS would not be a nationally recognized leader in education. Any contribution to the school, whether it be a donation of time or financial resources, makes a difference in the life of a child and to our school. Spaghetti Dinner is an opportunity to all of us (parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, neighbors) to gather together as a family, some will walk away with raffle items, some will walk away with irreplaceable memories, but we will all walk away with a renewed sense of community.

Milwaukee Montessori School
345 North 95th St, Milwaukee, WI 53226
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