'You are not alone': Henning students continue effort to support Wadena's Packer family

The 3 minute fundraiser brought in over $1,500 for the Packer family.

Henning Girls fundraise.JPG
Henning girl's basketball players took charge in gathering funds from the crowds to give to the Gary Packer family during a doubleheader Friday, Feb. 4, in Henning.
Michael Johnson / Pioneer Journal

HENNING — The support continues to pour in for one local family and their difficult battle with cancer.
Local father and husband, Gary Packer, the father of senior basketball player Madison Packer, is receiving hospice care after battling a brain tumor that is no longer responding to treatments.
After the community of Perham donated funds at a girl's basketball game, then the community of Wadena-Deer Creek came together in support, the most recent school district, Henning, decided to show their support too.
Both the home and away teams wore their gray in support of Gary during the doubleheader Friday, Feb. 4. The gray not only goes with Gary's name quite well, it's the ribbon color that coincides with brain cancer.
After just taking on the Wolverine girl's basketball team, just going head-to-head with WDC senior Madison Packer on the court, Henning senior Emma Severson, grabbed the microphone to say a prayer and offer words of encouragement to the Packer family. It was yet another moment showing kindness shared among these competitive teams.
Severson, with permission from the Packer family prayed the family would be supported in this time and read the "Bible verse of the day," Matthew 5:4, which surprisingly spoke words of comfort to those who mourn.

The Henning girls raced through the gym with buckets and quickly filled them, bringing in $1,520 in under 3 minutes, according to Henning K-12 principal Thomas Williams. Williams said Severson and her family approached him about doing something to support this family who are obviously going through a difficult challenge at the moment.
"It was out of love and kindness for others," Williams said of the reason behind Severson taking it on.

Packer is currently on hospice care after attempts at stopping a progressive brain cancer.

"It is great to see how our small towns have and express such BIG HEARTS," Williams said in an email. "To know a neighboring district has a student, basketball player and family dealing with such a difficult situation - we had a platform/opportunity to help out with the doubleheader game. Emma led that with humility and genuine care for others."
Williams acknowledged that at anytime, any member of the Henning School District and community could be going through the same terrible situation.
"To have a student (Emma) lead the fight from a neighboring district/community is awesome to observe," he added.
With all recent fundraisers combined, around $16,000 has been raised to support the Packer family.
Gary Packer was diagnosed with a brain tumor in the fall of 2020 and has been receiving treatments to slow the spread of the cancer. More recently, the treatments have shown no effect.

Michael Johnson is the news editor for Agweek. He lives in rural Deer Creek, Minn., where he is starting to homestead with his two children and wife.
You can reach Michael at or 218-640-2312.
What To Read Next
Get Local