Keeping their son’s memory alive, lifting the community at the same time

Published 9:00 am Saturday, March 3, 2018

Nearly 13 years ago Don and Deb Goodnature experienced a tragedy that changed their lives forever. 

In late June 2005 the Goodnatures received word that their son, Corey, had passed away while serving in Afghanistan. While performing a rescue mission, Corey’s helicopter was shot down after encountering intense enemy fire.

In 2006, the Goodnatures set up a scholarship fund as a way to keep Corey’s memory alive and help high school graduates within the county. Now, 12 years later, the scholarship is bigger than they had ever dreamed it could be, having awarded more that $216,000 to high school seniors.

“We had no expectations really when we first started,” Don Goodnature said. “We were thinking if we could raise four to five thousand dollars for an event. The first year we had it we raised around $60,000 dollars, a huge amount of money and it’s just grown from there.”

The Goodnature family hosts a golf outing every year as a way to raise funds for the scholarship and honor Corey’s memory. They said the turnout every year is amazing and the scholarship wouldn’t be were it is today without the support of the individuals and businesses within the community.

“It really is a combination of our committee’s contributions and what the community has done,” Deb Goodnature said. “The community has been amazing with all of their donations. The financial support that we get is absolutely incredible.”

Last year the scholarship was awarded to 10 students within the Freeborn County area: six from Albert Lea High School, two from Glenville-Emmons High School and two from Alden-Conger High School. The Goodnatures said education was always a high virtue in Corey’s life, making the scholarship that much more special. They said the scholarship is a good way for them to keep the story of their son going even among the next generation that might not now much about the story.

Don said many people think that them having to retell the story bothers them and makes them sad hearing the story, when in fact, it’s just the opposite.

“We want to talk about it,” Don Goodnature said. “As parents, our biggest fear was that people were going to forget. He was 35 years old and we don’t want him to be forgotten, and this has fulfilled that. We get to talk about it all the time, and we want to.”

On their scholarship application, they have a question asking the students to define what patriotism means to them, and they said they are always blown away with some of the answers these high school kids are able to give.

“It’s very rewarding,” Deb Goodnature said. “After having some tough years, just seeing the goodness in people is a great thing. It’s rewarding for us, it’s rewarding for the committee and I think it’s rewarding for the participants as well.”

The Goodnature name is a big one in the surrounding communities thanks to the scholarship, but also because of Don Goodnature’s brother, Larry, who has been a fixture of the Albert Lea wrestling team for over four decades.

Don Goodnature was quick to give the credit back to the community when talking about why the Goodnature family has given so much back.

“I guess that’s just the way we were brought up,” he said. “A lot of the people that are involved were born and raised here, maybe that’s just part of our whole makeup. It’s a great quality about this area — every body is always so giving and caring. All of the support we get from the community, it makes you want to give back as well.”

Why give back?

Don and Deb Goodnature give back to keep the memory of their son, Corey, alive and to be able to tell his story for as long as they can.

By the numbers

$216,000 – Money awarded through the scholarship

11 – Years the Goodnatures have had their annual golf outing fundraiser event

10 – Students awarded the scholarship in 2017

About Tyler Julson

Tyler Julson covers sports for the Albert Lea Tribune.

email author More by Tyler