Friends to hold spaghetti benefit for longtime beloved teacher

 Jaida Crain celebrates her graduation day at the Toddle Inn Daycare Center in Bayview with teacher Linda Furman Walters. - Photo courtesy of Jil Helland
Jaida Crain celebrates her graduation day at the Toddle Inn Daycare Center in Bayview with teacher Linda Furman Walters.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Jil Helland

For the past 20 years, Linda Furman Walters has taught South End preschoolers their ABCs, how to cut with scissors and to be kind to friends.

Now, her friends at the Toddle Inn Daycare Center at Sunlight Shores, along with students and parents, plan to reciprocate her kindness by gathering the community together for an evening of support.

Walters was diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this year and is undergoing cancer treatment on the mainland. The frequent ferry trips to radiation treatments and medical bills are adding up. To lighten this burden, her fellow teachers and Toddle Inn families will hold a fundraising spaghetti dinner at 5 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 14 at the American Legion Post 141 on Highway 525 in Bayview.

“Linda is like family and we just want to help her financially, so she can focus on recovery,” said Jil Helland, co-owner of the Toddle Inn Daycare Center with Ursula Shoudy.

Walters has taught the preschoolers at the Toddle Inn for more than 10 years, though the younger toddlers love her, too, perhaps because she is also a grandmother of five.

Helland said Walters is one of the most dedicated teachers she has ever met.

“She comes in every day almost an hour early so that she can make sure everything is ready for the day,” Helland said. “Like clockwork!

“Her dedication to her job and the children is amazing,” she added.

Helland said it’s important for children of a young age to see a familiar face every day, and Walters has been one of the most dependable to South End children.

One of Walters’ young charges at the Toddle Inn offered some good reasons why folks might want to attend the spaghetti dinner.

Ava Marx, 3, expressed her support.

“Yes. I’ll eat a lot of ‘bisghetti’ to help out Ms. Linda. But I don’t want any red sauce,” Ava said.

The youngster was eager to say why she’s a big fan.

“Ms. Linda makes really good Father’s Day and Mother’s Day cards with us. And Ms. Linda does letters with us and stuff. A-V-A. She teaches us about bugs and dinosaurs, too.”

Helland said Walters possesses a natural ease with children that is recognized even by babies.

“Linda has a calm, reassuring factor about her — a grandmotherly type that even the infants are immediately drawn to,” Helland said.

“With consistency, structure and the knowledge to know right from wrong, Linda has helped thousands of children grow into wonderful, amazing adults,” she said.

Organizers hope the fundraiser will be well-attended and that many of Walters’ former students and their families will come.

“We hope to feed 100 or more people,” Helland said.

Helland knows from personal experience what such a gathering can mean to a person who struggles with illness.

Helland, who lost her husband to cancer several years ago, said that she remembered how exhausting the frequent trips to the mainland were, as well as the financial toll they took. Knowing that people have your back has a positive effect on the person battling a disease and their family, she said.

Everyone is welcome to bring family and friends to the event.

There will be plenty of spaghetti and other treats, including a silent auction that will feature items such as one of Shoudy’s famous cheesecakes, yard maintenance, haircuts and a “mom’s night out” package (which includes childcare).

The fundraiser will offer onsite childcare with entertainment provided by experienced childcare specialists, so parents can visit while the kids have a blast.

The spaghetti dinner will also give participants a chance to visit with friends and neighbors, organizers said.

Helland said Walters’ legacy is apparent in the response she’s had already.

“I was surprised to see how many of even the freshman school-aged kids email, text or call me about Linda and ask how she is doing or what they can do to help her or help with the benefit,” Helland said.

“The support has been incredible and has brought tears to Ms. Linda’s eyes on more than one occasion. She truly is loved at the center and is a very important part in the development of all these young lives.”

Suggested donations for the spaghetti dinner are $5 per plate, or $20 per family.

For more information, call 321-1380.


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