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Youth group keeps alive leader's memory

By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN

dobrien@dailynews.net

It didn't take long for Donna Andregg's family to decide on one of her memorials.

Andregg, 50, died Thanksgiving Day, just four days after returning from a National Catholic Youth Conference in Indianapolis.

Andregg was one of the CYO sponsors of Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Hill City along with her husband, Ted, so one of the memorials established was to the CYO, where she spent a lot of time and energy.

The other memorials were for Masses in her memory, a scholarship for her two children, Sara and Marcus Goetz, and for the Ringneck Booster Club, where she also was an active leader.

"It's such a big, big benefit what those (CYO) kids can do for an adult," Ted Andregg said. "When you reach them, they're a wonder."

The Andregg couple and a contingent of northwest Kansas residents were on their way home from Indianapolis when Donna Andregg fell ill.

When the bus stopped for lunch near Exit 159 off Interstate 70 at Hays, Andregg passed out in McDonald's and was taken by ambulance to Hays Medical Center.

Tests showed hemorrhaging from a carotid artery in Andregg's neck was causing pressure on her brain. She was airlifted the next day by helicopter to the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, where hemorrhaging caused more swelling as it spread to her brain stem. She died three days later.

Other than a headache when both got on the bus in Indianapolis -- where they had just attended Mass with 23,000 Catholic teenagers and their adults sponsors -- Andregg's husband said there were no signs of illness.

Andregg said if there was "any silver lining to any of this," it was the fact he had just gotten to spend four days on the NCYC trip with his wife and the chance to say goodbye to her in Kansas City.

Donna Andregg accompanied teenagers to the biennial convention two years ago in Kansas City, Mo., but her husband was unable to attend.

Although her youngest child, Marcus, was a senior that year, the Andreggs decided to stay on as CYO sponsors through this year so her husband would have a chance to attend one.

"She wanted me to be able to experience that, and now I see why," Ted Andregg said. "That Mass Saturday night was the most amazing thing I've ever seen. She tapped me on the shoulder Saturday night, and the look on her face ... "

An 'excellent leader'

Sister Barbara Ellen Apaceller, director of youth ministry for the Diocese of Salina, said Andregg "was an excellent leader and did all the little extra things."

"They were saying that she texted the kids all the time before basketball games to tell them good luck," Apaceller said. "She loved kids, and her home was kind of their second home."

Apaceller said after Andregg attended NCYC two years ago, she was adamant about getting the conference's master of ceremonies that year, Steve Angrisano, to her hometown so all the parishioners could experience his music and message.

Angrisano, who heads up an international ministry in Texas and is a popular musician at youth events, did end up visiting the IHM parish in Hill City.

Angrisano also provided the music for a Mass for the Salina Diocese members the Friday night of NCYC in Indianapolis, and he returned to Hill City last week for Andregg's funeral.

Knowing Andregg was an avid Denver Broncos fan, CYO members chose orange and blue for the color of balloons they released at the cemetery during her services last Wednesday.

"She was well thought of by a lot of people," Apaceller said of Andregg.

"She loved her community, and the feeling is mutual," said Michelle Pfeifer, a member of the high school sports booster club along with Donna Andregg.

Moving forward

A former multi-sport standout during her high school days in Hill City, Andregg still was a staunch supporter of school activities.

"Being from here, she was a real supporter to getting people to learn the school song," Pfeifer said. "She had a lot of school pride, and she was willing to help with anything."

Pfeifer added in the days, weeks and months to come, "I think we'll be shocked at all the things she did."

The theme of NCYC 2011 was "Called to Glory." The challenge given to the teenagers and their adult leaders was to take that calling home with them, and not to be afraid of living their Catholic faith all day, every day.

Ted Andregg said now, more than ever, he is going to rely on his faith, and the support of those youngsters in CYO.

"The kids are what's going to make this church for years to come," he said. "So we need to teach them about the church and religion and faith in God."

"The kids said they want me to stay on (as CYO sponsor)," Andregg added, "and I'll at least be there to assist somebody. We'll carry on somehow."