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Keepsakes from the school site

Photo by Dana Pavek/WDC Schools Tanya Collins and her daughter, Kylee, 6, display one of the keepsakes she designed from broken glass recovered from the tornado-damaged high school.1 / 2
The keepsakes were given to school staff as a holiday gift.2 / 2

A Deer Creek woman has taken bits of broken glass from the tornado-damaged Wadena-Deer Creek High School and transformed them into unique and beautiful keepsakes.

A jeweler and mother of four, Tanya Collins created more than 200 keepsakes for WDC staff as a gift from the school district.

Wadena-Deer Creek Superintendent Virginia Dahlstrom wanted to give staff something special to commemorate the high school destroyed by a tornado on June 17. She came up with the idea of creating a keepsake out of the broken glass. Kraus-Anderson Construction Company Project Superintendent Eric Domino picked up enough pieces of the shattered glass from the high school windows to fill four plastic storage totes.

"The glass keepsakes turned out beautifully," Dahlstrom said. "They truly represent a remembrance of a high school that served students, staff and the surrounding communities well for more than 45 years."

Creating a memory keepsake

After their four children, ranging from 8 years old to 9 months old, were tucked in their beds at night, Collins and her husband, Travis, worked together on the keepsakes, sanding and polishing the pieces of glass, then adding a silver crown for hanging. The glass pieces ranged in sizes from 1 to 3 inches.

"At first, I immediately wanted to re-cut the glass to clean up the jagged edges," Collins said. "But after I looked at the glass longer, I realized that part of its beauty was in the way the glass was broken and the way those edges shined."

Collins believes the glass symbolizes a sense of renewal after the destructive storm.

"I realized that it is the same for the school and the community after the storm -- at first, it was awful and hurtful ... everyone wanted to clean up the mess and fix everything," Collins said. "Over time, though, all will be beautiful again, and the only ones who can make something so awful into a good thing are the ones who were touched by it."

When staff received their keepsakes before their holiday break, many were touched deeply by it. Some cried; some clutched the glass ornament like a precious gem. Others wanted to give their children who graduated from WDC a keepsake as well.

"The response was great," said Marcy Collins, payroll clerk, who coordinated the distribution of the keepsakes to staff. "Many were surprised by the special gift. We heard many positive responses."

Because of the overwhelming response for additional keepsakes by WDC staff alone, the school district had decided to allow the public to pre-order keepsakes. The cost will be $12 per keepsake, with a portion of the proceeds to go toward new playground equipment for Wadena-Deer Creek Elementary School.

If you are interested in ordering a keepsake, call Tanya Collins at (218) 462-2204 and leave a message with your contact information. Or for more details, visit the school's website at