The story below was first published on March 21, 2019 under the title "Mission Possible: Building a Legacy." Three weeks later, at the age of 50, Andrea Hanson was diagnosed with colon cancer, and she and Brian and their kids set out on a 2 1/2-year battle for healing. They set out on their journey with two goals. They wanted to do "this" well––that is, whatever "this" turned out to be. Andrea wanted to honor Jesus. Also, Brian and Andrea wanted to keep life as normal as they could for their kids, all the while fighting to extend her life as long as possible. Andrea hoped to be able to launch Joshua and Elizabeth into adulthood.
Since that time, Brian and Andrea have sent Joshua to Arizona State University after a successful high school career as a National Merit Scholar and an honors graduate. He was active in the marching band, hockey, soccer, and more, and Andrea was there every step of the way--often volunteering, always cheering. Just over a month ago, the family traveled to Arizona to move Josh into college, a trip Andrea was determined to make.
Brian and Andrea have also graduated Elizabeth from RCLS, and she is now in the middle of her own high school career, accumulating accolades and accomplishments of her own. Brian recently reported that Elizabeth, who spent her childhood years competing as a gymnast, won a diving meet for her high school team, an accomplishment I know must have made her mother overflow with joy.
Today marks one week since Andrea was welcomed home and fully healed by the One who loves her the most. She is with Jesus.
We rejoice for Andrea, but our hearts are breaking for a world without her. I am not impartial to this loss, for Andrea was my friend, a constant encourager and light to me and to all of those who were privileged to be a part of her world. In her life and in her death, Andrea pointed us to Jesus. In Brian's words, his wife exhibited a strength and grace, even in suffering, that can "only be explained by her faith and the strong presence of the Holy Spirit in her." I, and all of us at RCLS, mourn with Brian, Joshua, and Elizabeth for the loss of their lovely wife and mother.
I am republishing this article, with some updates, as a tribute to Andrea. The impact she has had on RCLS, a school that benefitted greatly from her goodness in the decade that her children were here, is significant. Indeed, in the founding of The Grace Foundation, an important partner in RCLS's work to shape young hearts and minds, Brian and Andrea and a core group of other school parents have left more than a small mark on our school. The Maker Space, the gym, the Clubhouse, a sophisticated Wi-fi system and tech program, new carpet in classrooms, and even air conditioning are all a part of RCLS, thanks to the sacrifices of those who founded and now carry on the work that Brian and Andrea envisioned.
Beyond that, Andrea leaves a legacy that goes beyond the capital improvements on campus and is rooted in Christ. It is a legacy of gratitude and faithfulness, one that was birthed at a time when the school needed the sacrifices that its parents made on its behalf. It is a legacy of hope, one that anticipates the Lord's work in generations of RCLS students yet to come.
If you are new to the RCLS community, I welcome you to get to know Andrea a bit––through the story below and through her obituary. Then, because I know Andrea would appreciate it, pray for her beloved family as they grow accustomed to missing her. If you, like Andrea, are grateful for this school that she loved, I welcome you, too, to leave a tribute for her with The Grace Foundation.
Ultimately, join us in praising God for His good work in our friend, Andrea Hanson.
For God is good. Andrea reminded us of that all the time.
To my dear friends and family,
I told my family near the end that I can't wait to hear the words from Matthew 25:23, "Well done, good and faithful servant," spoken to me by my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. As you read this message, know that I have heard these words! Please know that I received sweet kisses and final goodbyes from Elizabeth, Joshua, and Brian just before my pain stopped at 6:30pm on Thursday, September 23rd, 2021. I was showered with the love of family and friends until my last breath, and for that I am so grateful. I know that I am loved!
I now have my perfect body back!!!
I have one last verse that I would love to share with you all.
Romans 15:13: May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the holy spirit.
See you all again,
Mission Possible: Building a Legacy was originally published on March 21, 2019
To know Brian and Andrea Hanson is to know two people on a mission––and to know they have the skillsets necessary to accomplish that mission. Thankfully for RCLS, when the couple sought a partner in the mission of raising their two children––Joshua, now a sophomore at Century High School, and Elizabeth, a current 8th-grader at RCLS–they found RCLS in 2008 as Josh started kindergarten and Elizabeth began preschool. Andrea notes that RCLS was and has been a great fit for their family, not just because it is a school that offers “faith-based education and [. . .] lots of extra components that [they] love––music, Spanish, art, and extracurricular clubs and opportunities,” but also because it “felt very ‘familial’” when they first toured, and remains so still today. “Having both been the product of public schools,” Andrea continues, “Brian and I anticipated that for our kids as well, so it was a big decision to do otherwise. Looking back, this has been a great investment for our family, and we have zero regrets!”
What RCLS Has Been
As Brian and Andrea reflected on the investment they have made in their children through RCLS, I began to hear the same sort of praise for the school and its faculty that I have heard from so many others. Still, as each child is distinct, it never gets old to hear how RCLS teachers rise to the occasion of each of their individual students. In fact, when you subscribe to the reality that each child is uniquely created, it’s rather thrilling to hear how this school’s teachers minister accordingly. “Our kids are so different from one another,” explains Andrea, “both bright and hard-working, but with different spirits and approaches to life. RCLS has been a good fit for both even with the dichotomous ways they go about their days.” In her word choice in describing how each of their kids has benefited at RCLS, Andrea suggests that dichotomy. Josh needed “to be challenged academically while having teachers place an importance on character, social development, and leadership,” she says, while Elizabeth needed “to be nurtured and encouraged while working hard academically.” In each case, she notes, teachers directed attention to the “heart of the child,” a priority that has served to develop a sense of confidence and a mature “moral compass” in each of the kids. “The school has high expectations for work and behavior,” Andrea continues, and “by incorporating faith into their daily learning, students […] leave RCLS with ‘head’ knowledge of the Bible and also ‘heart’ knowledge that they are loved by a God that can’t be extricated from science, art, math, music, and English.” This expectation that is permeated with a sense of purpose and grace–– this is what makes RCLS the “exceptional place” the Hansons sought for their kids.
Brian succinctly names the outcome of that place as “maturity and clarity of focus,” two qualities he credits his kids as having as they enter high school. “As a consequence of their years at RCLS,” he acknowledges gratefully, Josh and Elizabeth both “have the ability to make good choices and both exhibit an appetite to serve.” As a student-athlete at Century High School, for example, Josh serves as a leader in Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and both of the children have plans to serve on a short-term missions trip with their church this summer. From Brian’s perspective, the education, the character emphasis, and the individual attention his kids received during their “formative years” have positioned Josh and Elizabeth to be confident, responsible students in high school. Ultimately, he expected from RCLS a solid education. That they got, he says, but he is also delighted with these outcomes that arise out of a school culture that is Christ-centered.
What RCLS Is
When pressed to describe RCLS in a word, Brian suggests that Christ-centered culture: “RCLS is community,” he says. The implications of that for raising his kids have been huge. “Andrea and I always knew we could lean into anyone at school––the teachers, the principal, other parents––to properly influence our kids. It’s a community that wants the same outcome for our kids that we do. Behavior. Faith. Academic performance. We’re all after the same outcome.”
Andrea agrees. “RCLS is a place students can thrive” because it is a place that is filled with adults that challenge and support kids “in an environment of love and forgiveness.” Her kids have a strong academic foundation that is complete with good study and work habits “that will take them into high school and beyond,” she contends, but they’ve also grown up in an environment where they have learned that “serving others is a way to express God’s love.” Beyond that, Brian and Andrea and their kids are thankful to have formed friendships with other families that will endure long past their RCLS years.
What RCLS Might Be
It is that future––the future of RCLS and the legacy of RCLS in their own family’s life––that has given shape to one of the family’s most significant missions in recent years. Appreciative of RCLS as they are, Andrea has long been a part of the mission of the school. “I love helping the school and teachers, in particular,” she insists, something a number of the school’s teachers can surely confirm. Andrea spent years volunteering in the classrooms and helping teachers with needed tasks, but as her kids got older, she became more involved in the school’s “bigger picture” needs, particularly Blue & White Night, the school’s most significant fundraising event. For a few years, Andrea led a committee of volunteers who planned and produced the gala-auction evening, now a highly anticipated event on the school’s annual calendar.
Meanwhile, Brian played what he describes as a “peripheral role” to supporting the school, but when the school entered a financially tenuous time around the turn of the last decade, he directed his own time and talent to helping the school establish fiscal certainty. With experience in establishing non-profits, Brian and Andrea developed the idea to establish a foundation that would be “a permanent legacy for the good of the school.” That legacy, The Grace Foundation, established in 2014, finds its genesis in a parent-led effort “to organize to have a financial impact” on the well-being of the school. The goodwill and vision of the dozen families that established the foundation is now shared by the several dozen families that are TGF members and the RCLS association churches and supporters who are regular foundation donors. The synergy of a shared mission and the real impact of a strategic, collective effort to benefit RCLS can hardly be ignored. Consider that in the five short years of its existence, The Grace Foundation has donated more than a quarter of a million dollars toward capital improvements at the school:
· 2014: Chromebooks and an outdoor classroom
· 2015: The MakerSpace
· 2016: Air conditioning units in the Lower El classrooms
· 2017: A renovated gym
· 2018: A fiber-optic technology upgrade and enhanced security equipment
Even more encouraging is the nearly $180,000 in an endowment and pledged funds that the Foundation has on record, seed money that the TGF Board of Directors plan to grow to be a permanent source of third-party funding for the school. “Imagine the potential of donations that are wisely invested on behalf of the school,” explains Brian. “Instead of being subject to the ebb and flow of enrollment and operating expenses, RCLS would be supported not just by generosity of its supporting churches, but also from this third-party source of funding, a constant stream of income that can offer insurance against market changes.” As TGF’s current president, Brian sees mission opportunity in what The Grace Foundation could do. One of the Foundation's bigger priorities is to help fund the school’s Variable Tuition program, a means by which RCLS makes a Christian education available to more students. In this, TGF clearly imagines not just a long-term financial impact, but an eternal impact, as well.
Participating in the Legacy
So, then, what can individual RCLS parents or supporters do to participate in the work of this mission? Brian and Andrea are ever-so-glad you asked! They offer two very tangible means for participating in building this legacy.
First, the Hansons invite you to consider becoming TGF members. Membership dues are offered at varying levels, and the Foundation has mechanisms in place to allow members to direct gifts as they wish and to offer complete transparency and accountability for the funds. It’s important to remember that The Grace Foundation is a “member-driven organization” that depends upon the engagement of its members for both support and direction. “TGF is designed to perpetuate itself,” Brian explains, “because it was designed with the intention of passing it on the next generation of parents. We welcome that generation to join us now.”
Then, Blue & White Night, the Foundation’s premiere event, is just around the corner, and TGF Board of Directors and the Executive Director would love for you to come. Planned for Friday, April 12, 2019* at 6pm at the DoubleTree Hotel in downtown Rochester, the night will be brimming with community and camaraderie as more than 200 TGF members and RCLS supporters rally to benefit the school both in the short-term, through an effort to raise money for a new stage and theater department needs, and in the long-term, through a continued effort to fund the Foundation’s endowment. Whether you simply buy a dinner ticket and enjoy the evening or donate $10,000 at the event, Brian advocates, “the fact that we all come together to celebrate our beloved school enables us to do some truly amazing things.” He imagines one day his own children and their friends participating in the mission of the school that had such influence on their lives. “Imagine what this might mean to the school,” he says, “if current students, as TGF members, engage in carrying on the legacy.”
RCLS does imagine, and we are grateful, indeed.
You can learn more about The Grace Foundation at https://grace-foundation.org/. Have questions? You’ll find an email address there, too.
*This year, Blue & White Night, The Grace Foundation's premiere fundraising and community event, is planned for March 11, 2022. Do save that date, and we'll continue to build on Andrea's legacy together.