By Tracy Ouellette

Staff writer

With all the hustle and bustle going on this time of year, it’s easy to get caught up in the rush of the Christmas shopping, holiday events and general craziness that is part and parcel of the holiday season. It’s easy to get so focused on what has to be done that the reason for doing it is obscured.

I’m not generally one to jump up on a soapbox and get preachy, but I’m going to make an exception this time around.

 I urge all of you to take and hour – just one hour – and make a list of what you’re thankful for. Jot down those miracles, big and small, that got you through the year.

This year, my list of miracles are the people in my life – my family, my friends and my coworkers.

On Sept. 17 of this year, one of my coworkers, and friend, Mark Dudzik, was severely injured riding his bicycle in Sheboygan County. It is a miracle he wasn’t killed outright as he was hit by a pickup truck traveling at highway speeds.

But that was only the first such miracle I’ve seen since that day. I’ve watched the entire staff here at Southern Lakes Newspapers pull together and do everything in their power to help Mark and his family.

 They donated vacation hours to keep Mark on payroll so his family wouldn’t go without his paycheck, being that he was the main breadwinner at the time of the accident, and to keep is health insurance in force. They donated money to the Friends of Mark Dudzik Benefit a fund set up to help defray expenses related to his accident. And every single member of this company worked on a benefit event that was held Nov. 13 in Burlington.

My coworkers solicited donations (or donated themselves) to the silent auctions and raffles. They planned, organized, cooked, baked, sold tickets and promoted the event for a month straight. They organized entertainment from three musical acts and not one of the performers asked for anything in return. Even the venue was donated for our use with just a nominal charge for staff.

I have the pleasure of working with the most incredible group of people you will ever encounter.

 I also watched this past month as not only my coworkers banded together for one of their own, but as the Waterford, Union Grove and Burlington communities did as well.

Being that Mark was the staff writer for the Burlington Standard Press for nine years and the editor of the Waterford Post and Westine Report for the past two, he is just as much a member of these communities as the residents.

I’ll never forget the Monday night following his accident. I was on deadline, working after 5 p.m. in the office and suddenly my phone started ringing. I live in Waterford and news of Mark’s accident started to spread around town late that afternoon. Concerned residents, who knew Mark from his years of service with the papers, began calling me, figuring I would know what was going on.

I spent the next four hours fielding calls.

Mark is recovering at a rehab facility in Milwaukee after spending nearly a month at Theda Clark Medical Center in Neenah. According to his wife Denise, he continues to make progress daily, in small, steady steps, and talks about coming home and returning to work.

We eagerly await that day.

So, now you know what I’m giving thanks for. What’s your miracle?