Planning Jayme’s celebration

 A May 4 event in Barron will celebrate the return of kidnap victim Jayme Closs and help to raise funds for family members who are caring for her. Among the volunteers working on the program are, from left, Chris Featherly, Toni Saffert, Roxanne White, Shelly Balts and Sandy Haus. See story page one. Photo contributed

By Bob Zientara

When friends of Bob and Jennifer Smith host an event at Barron High School Saturday, May 4, 2019, it won’t be just a fundraiser.

In fact, according to local construction company owner Bill Balts, the main emphasis will be on the good news that Bob and Jennifer’s niece, Jayme Closs, is back in the Barron community.

“That’s the main thing – to celebrate Jayme’s return,” Balts said Monday, April 22, 2019.

Jayme has been staying with the Smiths since her miraculous escape from her captor last January, in a remote section of Douglas County. It culminated a three-month search and led to the arrest of her 21-year-old captor, Jake T. Patterson, who is now awaiting sentencing on May 24 after pleading guilty to Jayme’s kidnapping and the murders of her parents, James and Denise Closs, in October 2018 at their rural Barron home.

“Bob (Smith) is a subcontractor who works with me,” Bill Balts said.

Besides raising funds for the home addition (including a bathroom and bedroom), Balts said he hopes the event will buy an even more precious commodity for the Smiths and their niece – time.

“I suggested that maybe, (Bob) needs not to work as much as he used to, and that he (should spend more time at home) to help Jayme heal, show her a good, male role model. She’s made some progress, but there’s a long, long way to go.”

The celebration includes live music, a spaghetti meal, served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., a short program at 2 p.m. in the gymnasium, and a live auction.

Three other fundraisers will take place throughout the day, including a silent auction, paddle raffle and Chinese auction.

The Barron County Sheriff’s Department has served as a collection point for donated items for the event, and the Barron Area School District has assisted with the event site and logistics, Balts said.

A volunteer group of about 20 people has been planning the May 4 event. Major event chairs include: Shelly Balts, spaghetti dinner; Toni Saffert, Chinese auction; Sandi Haus, Bake Sale; Chris Featherly, paddle raffle; and Roxanne White, silent auction.

Melissa (Balts) Smith, who is helping her father with the event, said the Chinese auction will let people put bid tickets in buckets for certain items.

“A drawing will take place every hour or so,” she said.

In the paddle raffle, people can buy numbers on the wheel. Once all the numbers are sold, the wheel will be spun and whomever has the lucky number will win.

“We’ve gotten some amazing things” for the fundraiser, Bill Balts said. Among them is an autographed basketball from the Milwaukee Bucks, signed by superstar player Giannis Antetokounmpo, and a commemorative Henry rifle worth an estimated $900.

“But whether it’s those things, or a guided fishing trip, or a quilt, or a gift basket, or even a $20 bill, we appreciate all of it,” he added.

The Sheriff’s Department is accepting further donations until this Friday, April 26.