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UW-Eau Claire Staff Member Honors Daughter's Memory Through 'Beezie Bag' Project

RELEASED: May 1, 2009

Pat Lee holding Beezie Bags
Pat Lee, an employee in the UW-Eau Claire Registrar's Office, with the Beezie Bags she created in memory of her daughter, Katie Brophy Lee. (UW-Eau Claire photo by Rick Mickelson)

EAU CLAIRE — It's been nearly two years since Katie Brophy Lee died following a battle with cancer, but her dreams of a cleaner environment are living on through her mother's Beezie Bag reusable bag project.

Katie died Aug. 15, 2007, at the age of 23 from complications from a stem cell transplant she received because of acute myelogenous leukemia. While the stem cell transplant was a success, the full-body radiation she was given to get rid of all the leukemia cells before the transplant destroyed her lungs.

When Christmas came around in 2007, Katie's family hung her stocking with the others, said Katie's mother, Patricia Lee, who works in the Registrar's Office at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

"It's been our family's tradition to each buy a small gift for everyone else's stocking," Lee said. "Rather than leave Katie's stocking empty, her sister, Sara, suggested that each family member do something good for someone and leave a note in Katie's stocking sharing what we did in her memory. We read the notes on Christmas morning before opening any other gifts.

"It helped us so much that we decided to continue the tradition, but now we had a whole year to do good things in Katie's memory. Since she loved the fact that Ireland was so eco-friendly, and they encourage the use of reusable bags, I decided to take that on as my project — to encourage people to use reusable bags and not take plastic ones home from the store."

In her daughter's memory, Lee created the Beezie Bag. The reusable bags — which come in two styles — have a tree/acorn logo that is an original drawing of Katie's, who was an art student at UW-Stout when she died."Beezie" was the family's affectionate name for Katie.

After getting the first group of bags printed with the help of Katie's friends and her screen printing instructor, Lee decided it would be easier to purchase more bags from an online source and have them printed professionally. She initially worked with an online printer to get the logo onto the bags but later learned the bags were being printed in China.

"I decided I needed someplace in the USA to print them," Lee said. "I found a place in Oshkosh that sells the bags and has them printed in Wisconsin. I like the idea — and Katie would, too — that the work is staying right here in our state."

So far, the family has distributed more than 2,500 bags to people across the country, Lee said. In the beginning, most bags were given to family and friends, but through word of mouth, people from all over the country have requested bags, she said, noting that some also have been distributed by friends in Europe.

"We are distributing the bags in memory of Katie to champion her hope for a cleaner, healthier environment without waste," Lee said, noting that the family gives the bags away for free but encourages people to make a donation to cover the costs of creating new bags.

Katie was the vice president of the UW-Stout Green Sense student organization when she died. To support a project in which Katie was involved when she got sick, Green Sense created the Katie Lee Memorial Composting Project Fund at UW-Stout, Lee said, adding that she gave UW-Stout 100 Beezie Bags to be distributed on Earth Day.

For more information about the Beezie Bags project, call Patricia Lee at 715-834-9757 or 715-829-6541, or e-mail her at beeziebags@yahoo.com.

-30-

JB

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