When Julie Danielson learned that one of her biggest inspirations in life was in need of help, she jumped into action as quickly as possible.
A former student of Max Brown, a retired drama teacher who worked at Blue Valley North High School for 32 years, Danielson was able to spearhead a fundraiser that brought in more than $15,000 over just two days to help cover Brown’s medical expenses.
Though she graduated in 2000, Danielson said she still remembers her time in Brown’s class with a sense of fondness. In fact, he was the teacher who nourished her love for musical theatre.
“He just made such an impact on his students with his support for them, so they remembered and came back to really show up for him,” she said.
Health issues and high bills
The trouble began for Brown when he had both of his knees replaced about a month apart around two years ago, according to Danielson. (The Post was not able to speak with Brown directly due to his ongoing medical care.)
“He just had trouble recovering and never quite got where he needed to be,” she said. “And then when COVID hit, he was no longer able to have home health care or physical therapy in his house.”
Without the in-home care, Danielson said, Brown became bedridden and it became painful to use his muscles.
In December, after years of struggling, Brown finally began receiving help with treatments at Brookdale’s Rehabilitation Center in Overland Park.
“He was only there for like a few weeks though before he got word that his insurance was going to be done,” Danielson said.
Suddenly, Brown’s $400 daily rate to be at the center, plus his $100 per hour physical therapy, would have to come out of pocket.
A plea for help
When Danielson learned about Brown’s travails, she jumped into motion. She turned to Facebook to share his story and call on the help of the community and fellow BV North alums.
“I wrote that my initial goal was to raise $2,000 within 48 hours so we could cover his daily rate in the center through the weekend. The hope was to raise $15,000 total to cover at least a month at Brookdale,” Danielson said. “But by the time I went to bed that night, we had already raised over $4,000.”
The Facebook post quickly became flooded with messages full of support for Brown.
“This is amazing, but not surprising because Max is so, so loved,” Susan Gilgus Peavler wrote. “What a gift for a man who has given all his life!”
Another donator, Leighton Vanderpol, wrote “the absolute least I could do! Brings a tear to my eye seeing the amount already donated. Who knew how impactful those play reports would be one day?!”
In under 24 hours, Danielson had almost reached her goal after receiving more than $13,000 worth of donations, along with many more messages that conveyed admiration for the retired drama teacher.
“It was surprising but not surprising,” she said. “I knew that our community would rally, and it was a lot of his former students, colleagues, but even people I didn’t know donated.”
In the end, Danielson was able to raise over $18,000, which will cover Brown’s fees at Brookdale for a little over a month.
“We have to hope that month will be enough to get him strong enough to then maybe move to something less full time,” she said.
Donations on the behalf of Brown are still being accepted at this time. If you would like to donate, email Danielson at JDBroadway@aol.com.