Northeast Wisconsin
  • Northeast Wisconsin
  • April 2015
Written by 

Let’s catch a big one and make Bruce a happy camper

Bruce Hietpas was a happy camper last Sept. 16 when he revved up his motorcycle and started to work. It was 5:30 in the morning and sunrise was still an hour away. After being laid off from another employer, the Little Chute resident had been working at Appvion in Appleton for three months and had just gotten group insurance. Life looked good again.

Bruce doesn’t know if he even saw the white-tailed deer that burst onto the road to collide with his machine. “If it weren’t for the pictures, if someone told me I was in an accident, I’d laugh at him. I don’t remember a thing: being in the hospital, the accident itself, nothing.”

But pictures of his broken motorcycle prove that Bruce had an accident. Three people who saw it have told him that he should be dead. Yet he broke no bones. The only obvious injuries were road rash and a scuffed face. But once he came to, Bruce experienced double vision, the result of a traumatic brain injury. His doctor told him the usual recovery period was six months to a year. Four months after his accident, Bruce returned to work.

“I always believed in God a little bit,” he said, “but now there’s no doubt in my mind that there’s a God. He worked wonders with me.”

On Saturday, May 2, he will have an opportunity to celebrate those wonders. Paula Simon, a former co-worker, is part of a team working with Community Benefit Tree, Inc. (CBT) in Kaukauna to plan a Celebration of Support that day from 4 to 8 p.m. at Tanner’s Grill and Bar in Kimberly. They hope the funds they raise will help pay some of Bruce and Janet’s remaining medical bills and living expenses.

“We could never have done this on our own,” Simon said. “There are advantages to working with CBT. They really outline things for you and tell you exactly what needs to be done. They set deadlines and meeting times and let you know your responsibilities. They supply some equipment and supplies and they also supply a tax ID number. A lot of businesses that we’ve asked for donations want that number right away. CBT takes care of all the financial tracking so we don’t have to worry about money going through different hands. Everybody who donates will get a receipt from CBT to use as a tax deduction.”

“I don’t like accepting help,” Bruce said, “but there are times in your life when you don’t have a choice. What they’re doing for me is really neat. You never realize how expensive things are until you have an accident. It doesn’t take long for the bills to mount.”

Today Bruce is happy that he still has a job at Appvion. He recounted how someone from work sat down with him and his wife and helped them with the reams of insurance paperwork.

But what really impressed him was the way the company treated him. “They kept my job for me when I was off for four months,” he said, “and that’s rare. From day one they kept in touch to see how I was doing. Everything they’ve done has been good. The union passed the hat to help me out too. And when I got back, even people I didn’t know asked how I was doing and told me it was good to see me back. The whole attitude at that place is just phenomenal.”

Readers who are unable to attend Bruce’s celebration can make a tax-deductible donation through CBT online at For more information, call the organization at 920-422-1919.

Kathi Bloy is a freelance writer from Appleton.

Kathi Bloy

The Community Benefit Tree Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization governed by Christian values. Our mission is to help individuals and families struggling with a medical crisis financially, emotionally, spiritually and with practical resources. We celebrate people’s lives and support by helping family, friends or co-workers plan a Celebration of Support event for their loved one. In the last 10 years, these one-day events have helped more than 500 families with funds for living and medical expenses. Community Benefit Tree also provides education, support, resources and financial assistance for families. For more information, visit or contact CBT staff at 920-422-1919.

Kathi Bloy is a freelance writer from Appleton.

Subscribe Today
Community Partners Directory
Find a Complimentary Copy
Community Calendar