The Times photo by Betsy Reason
Noblesville West Middle School eighth-grader Ella Whistler, a victim of a school shooting on May 25, 2018, performs a solo to Andra Day’s “Rise Up” with her school’s show choir, West Side Sound. Tonight, she’ll throw out the first pitch at the Noblesville Youth Baseball opening ceremony.
The Times photo by Betsy Reason Noblesville West Middle School eighth-grader Ella Whistler, a victim of a school shooting on May 25, 2018, performs a solo to Andra Day’s “Rise Up” with her school’s show choir, West Side Sound. Tonight, she’ll throw out the first pitch at the Noblesville Youth Baseball opening ceremony.

It’s been almost 11 months since the dreadful school shooting at Noblesville West Middle School, where on May 25, 2018, a seventh-grader, armed with two handguns, opened gunfire in his classroom, injuring a science teacher and a fellow classmate.

Thankfully, both the teacher Jason Seaman and student Ella Whistler survived and are healing. 

While Whistler — who was shot seven times and sustained injuries to her face, neck, hand and upper chest, can no longer play contact sports, including volleyball, due to severe damage to an artery in her right arm — the now NWMS eighth-grader is active in other school activities and in the community.

Just last month, during Noblesville Schools’ District Show Choir Showcase, we watched Whistler perform with West Side Sound, her school’s 46-member mixed show choir, a selection of uplifting songs expressing the school’s strong sense of unity. 

Whisler received cheers from the audience after coming forward and confidently taking a microphone to sing a solo during the choir’s performance of Andra Day’s “Rise Up.”

The audience could feel the emotion in the room as she, fittingly, sang, “When the silence isn't quiet, And it feels like it's getting hard to breathe, And I know you feel like dying, But I promise we'll take the world to its feet, And move mountains, We’ll take it to its feet, And move mountains…"

The audience cheered again and against as the NWMS choir sang “Larger Than Life,” “Be the Hero,” “My Best Days Are Ahead of Me” and ended with “Get Up, Get Down, Get Funky, Get Loose.” 

Tonight, Whistler will throw the first pitch at the Noblesville Youth Baseball opening ceremonies at 6 p.m. on Field 8 at the Bobby A. Mills’ Field of Dreams at 3025 Westfield Road. The Indiana National Guard will fly in on a Blackhawk helicopter to deliver the American flag and the baseball that Whistler will throw. 

After the shooting, Whistler’s first public appearance came less than six weeks into recovery, when she and Mr. Seaman greeted the community as co-grand marshals in the 2018 Noblesville Fourth of July Parade.

Then, six months into recovery, Whistler showed the world, on a Facebook video, how strong she was by performing with Indianapolis Colts Cheerleaders, as honorary captain.

Both Whistler and Seaman’s lives became public last May, when Seaman, who tackled the school shooter and who was shot three times, and then he was commended the following day by President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence in tweets sent out all over the world.

In June, Napleton Hyundai in Carmel honored and recognized Seaman’s heroic efforts by presenting the teacher and his wife with a 2018 Hyundai Elantra. 

Seaman also threw out the first pitch before the St. Louis Cardinals game against the Atlanta Braves in June.

Also, in June, Noblesville Fraternal Order of Police and the Noblesville Police Auxiliary held a charity 5K Fun Run with net proceeds going to the NWMS PTO to support all of the students affected by the shooting.

The Noblesville Kiwanis Club presented Seaman with Kiwanis International’s Robert P. Connelly Medal of Heroism in November at the Boys & Girls Club of Noblesville. (Connelly was a Chicago-area Kiwanian who died trying to save a 20-year-old with mobility issues crossing the tracks in front of a passenger train in 1966 in the Lisle, Ill., train station.) Since its inception, Kiwanis’ Medal of Heroism has been presented to more than 600 individuals who have risked their lives to save the life of others.

Also in November, Seaman, NWMS school nurse Megan Schleuter and NWMS school resources officer Mike Steffen were each honored as a Hometown Hero with a plaque presented to them on Veterans Day at the Hamilton County War Memorial by Noblesville American Legion Post 45 and Ralph Lehr Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6246 and Hamilton County Navy Club Ship 29.

Indiana Gov. Eric J. Holcomb and Sen. Victoria Spartz awarded Seaman the Sagamore of the Wabash, Indiana’s highest civilian honor, in December. He was also recognized as a Hoosier Hero by the Indiana Society of Chicago at its 113th annual black-tie gala, which annually recognizes and celebrates accomplishments of those doing extraordinary things to make Indiana the great state it is.

Noblesville Elks collected $1,500 for Whistler and Seaman to use during the holidays.

In February, Seaman and Schlueter were awarded the NPD’s Distinguished Citizen Service Award for their heroic actions, with the highest honor the police department can bestow to a civilian. The department also distinguished Steffen and fellow school resource officer Sgt. Andrew Reiss by awarding them with the Lifesaving Award – for outstanding police performance in the saving of a human life on May 25.

A gofundme.com campaign, set up for medical expenses and bills of Whistler, has raised $135,861, with donations from 2,069 people, surpassing the campaign’s $130,000 goal. The campaign was set up by Katie Benosky, a co-worker of Cory Whistler, Ella’s father. A similar gofundme.com campaign for Seaman, set up by Noblesville High School student Jackson Ramey, has raised $108,009, surpassing the campaign’s $100,000 goal.

Noblesville Schools Education Foundation also established a fund to support Whistler and Seaman through First Merchants Bank.

Most recently, Seaman has been nominated to win a free vacation getaway, through Norwegian Cruise Line, in celebration of National Teacher Appreciation Week in May. The cruise line is giving away a seven-day cruise for two to 30 amazing educators who bring joy to their students. A Noblesville parent nominated Seaman for the award. The winners will receive an airfare and accommodations to attend the awards ceremony on May 3 in Seattle. The winners’ schools also have a chance to win one of three grand prizes for their school, $25,000, $15,000 or $10,000.

At press time, Seaman was in second place with 10,788 votes, just 16 votes behind Nicole Conlisk, a New York City special education teacher and mother of three, who was diagnosed with breast cancer while pregnant with her twins, five months ago today, and who has 10,904 votes. The contest ends today at 11:59:59 Eastern Time.

I’m sure that I missed listing other awards and fundraisers. But all of these provide proof that our community is so very grateful.
This year, we are still healing, but we look forward to safer schools and remaining Noblesville Strong. 

P.S. Be sure to vote for Mr. Seaman before midnight at www.nclgivingjoy.com

-Contact Betsy Reason at betsy@thetimes24-7.com