It has been just over 25 years since Amy Otteman passed away at only 24 years old; however, her passion for nursing and legacy of caring for those who are in pain still live on.
Amy’s memory lives on in the life of each patient she cared for as an oncology nurse. Amy’s legacy of caring lives on in every person who participated in the Amy Otteman Memorial Classic through the 15 years it ran, raising $185,000 to benefit nursing programs and nursing education. Amy’s passion for nursing lives on in the nurses at McLaren Central Michigan who are able to attend specialized training courses thanks to funding from the Amy Otteman Nursing Education Fund.
Amy Otteman’s mom, Suzi Tengen, holds a photo of her while standing next to Amy’s two brothers, Tim and Jim.
As Amy’s legacy continues, the word her brother uses to describe her most is “caring”.
Amy Otteman’s high school graduation photo. “She was just always a caring kid growing up,” says Timothy Otteman. “She went from high school into college into nursing. I think the caring part of her personality carried through into an industry based on caring.”
That’s why when Amy passed away, her family knew in their hearts that they needed to honor her by ensuring something good came of the tragedy – indeed, not just one thing, but many things.
“We were sitting in a room trying to figure out what’s going to happen next and made a Gift of Life decision. In that timeframe, in that room, we thought, ‘Something positive has to come out of this tragedy,’” Timothy says. “In the next hour, we hatched a plan for a golf outing to benefit the hospital here in town, but also where she worked.”
That’s when the Amy Otteman Memorial Classic was born. In its first year, it raised $5,000, which was donated to both McLaren Central Michigan (then Central Michigan Community Hospital) and Bronson Memorial Hospital, where Amy had worked.
Amy Otteman’s mom, Suzi, and brother, Tim, golf at the Amy Otteman Memorial Classic.
The event quickly grew, and after just five years the family had raised their goal of $50,000. They considered ending the event, but received a great deal of pushback from the community at the thought. When the 10-year anniversary of the event arrived, Timothy had the same idea – it was a nice, round anniversary and perhaps it was time for the event to come to a close.
“The community went, ‘nope,’” he says, laughing.
A check presentation in 2009, giving $17,700 to Central Michigan Community Hospital (now McLaren Central Michigan).
Timothy explained that people came from all over the world for the Amy Otteman Memorial Classic.
“It really was a homecoming for people to come back to Mt. Pleasant,” he says. “It got so big that we did a pre-event the night before at O’Kelly’s and we had a post-event at The Cabin. People would come in Thursday and then fly home Sunday.”
The 13th year of the event, it was announced that the Amy Otteman Memorial Classic would only continue for two more years.
“I devised a strategy to say, ‘Hey, we’re going to end this in the 15th year. So, you have 2 years to participate,’” says Timothy.
An Otteman family photo at a pre-event for the last Amy Otteman Memorial Classic.
During those two years, the family introduced new events to help raise additional funding for nursing programs and education, including “Fault the Family: Dunk Tank Revenge” and “Pennies for Heaven”.
“Fault the Family: Dunk Tank Revenge” was a popular event during which those who were upset that the event was ending (or anyone looking for extra fun) could pay to send a member of the Otteman family into the dunk tank. “Pennies for Heaven” was a way to honor the memory of not only Amy, but Timothy’s grandmother as well. Businesses throughout the community held penny drives, and any participant of the Amy Otteman Memorial Classic who brought 15 rolls of pennies received a special T-shirt.
“We collected over $7,000 in pennies before we even got to the tournament,” Timothy says.
A vintage photo of Amy Otteman, her mom, and her two brothers.
At the conclusion of the 15 years, participants of the Amy Otteman Memorial Classic had raised $185,000 to support nursing programs and nursing education. Funds went to Bronson Memorial Hospital for a period of time, and some scholarships were given to students at Mt. Pleasant High School pursuing a career in nursing. However, it was important to the family that McLaren Central Michigan received funding each year – totaling about $100,000.
To ensure Amy’s memory continued well into the future, the Amy Otteman Nursing Education Fund was established at the Mt. Pleasant Area Community Foundation.
Thanks to the philanthropic work of the Otteman family in Amy’s memory, McLaren Central Michigan was recently able to purchase a technical mannequin for nursing staff to train on. Here, one of the hospital’s nurses, Shannon Sharrar, trains students with the mannequin.
“Nursing care is forever changing which requires nurses to continuously educate themselves on new evidence based practices. This is more challenging than it sounds. Choices often need to be made to reduce the cost of care within a hospital which can impact education hours and resources. For as long as I can remember we have had the comfort and support of the Amy Otteman fund to facilitate education for our nurses,” says Bobbie Gross, Director of Nursing at McLaren Central Michigan. “The fund has supported so many nurses and, as a result, has heavily impacted our patients over the years; we could never thank the family enough. Amy’s legacy truly lives on within our hospital and community.”
Rachel Blizzard, Director of Marketing and Fund Development at McLaren Central Michigan, says this fund recently enabled the purchase of a technical mannequin for the nursing staff to train on. Additionally, it allows the hospital to send several nurses to specialized training, including training nurses in the Family Birthing Center unit as lactation counselors.
The sorrow of losing Amy will never leave, but Timothy says knowing her legacy of caring is being honored and remembered at McLaren Central Michigan brings the family comfort.
“It doesn’t bring Amy back,” he says. “But it makes us feel like she lived a life that was extremely worthwhile and that life continues even if she’s not here.”