‘UWL family’ inspired fundraiser

UWL sophomore Chase Lehman, along with his fraternity, Lambda Chi Alpha, organized the fundraiser to carry on the passion of Emma Mertens, the daughter of a UWL alumnus.

UWL fraternity raised funds in memory of a UWL alum’s daughter who had a love for animals, and a worldwide social media following

An 8-year-old Hartland, Wisconsin, girl whose battle with a brain tumor and love for dogs attracted an international, viral response on social media, died Nov. 17. But support for Emma Mertens passion of caring for canines lives on.

When UW-La Crosse student Chase Lehman heard the news, he decided to get his fraternity at UWL, Lambda Chi Alpha, involved. They got members of the Greek community on campus to support a fundraiser for the foundation created to honor Emma’s love of animals, the Emma Loves Dogs Foundation. Emma’s father, Geoff Mertens, is a 2000 graduate of UWL.

“UWL will always hold a special place in my heart,” says Geoff. “I am honored to be an alumnus of a university with such a caring student body”

In an interview with WEAU News 13, Geoff says he knows the fundraiser would have thrilled Emma who would be “smiling ear-to-ear.” Listen to the full interview.

Lehman originally heard of Emma’s story because his grandparents are neighbors of Emma’s family.

“I’ve been following her story since it first came out in January (2018). We want to keep her memory alive,” says Lehman. “She was a very passionate young lady.”

Hearing of the family’s loss was incredibly sad, adds Lehman, a sophomore microbiology major. “We are all part of that UWL family,” notes Lehman. “We need to reach out to people when they need us.”

To honor Emma’s memory, Lehman organized an Instagram Bingo event to raise money for the Emma Loves Dogs Foundation, a foundation Emma inspired that funds organizations that share her passion for helping animals. The online giving event encouraged small contributions ranging from $1-$5 per blank to fill out a bingo card. The group raised $700 from donors all over the country.

Individuals can still contribute directly to the Emma Loves Dogs Foundation by visiting https://www.emmalovesdogs.org/

Emma Mertens died of a rare brain tumor, diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, on Nov. 17. A post on her Facebook page went viral after asking dog owners to share pictures and letters. Emma’s story garnered national media attention as well including Good Morning America and U.S.A. Today.

Lehman says the fraternity is dedicated to community service and philanthropy and supporting Emma’s passion fit that goal. Earlier in the semester chapter members held a food drive for the local WAFER Food Pantry, collecting 700 pounds of food.