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A memorial for Mercedes; students to donate in remembrance of 6-year-old who died

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BEMIDJI -- Elementary students in Bemidji will be breaking the rules and wearing hats in class Friday.

March 28 has been declared "Hat Day" in memory of Mercedes Mayfield.

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Mayfield, 6, a student at both J.W. Smith and Horace May elementary schools, died of hypothermia in February.

Lisa Bollinger, a first-grade teacher at Northern Elementary, thought of the idea to raise money for a memorial to Mercedes.

"We thought it was important that we create a memorial to honor her life and to show that she was loved and cared about by her teachers and her friends," Bollinger said.

The concept of wearing hats in exchange for a monetary donation seemed fitting, Bollinger said, because hats are normally not allowed in school. Donations can be made at any Bemidji elementary school.

Students can donate any amount, which will be used to purchase an outdoor memorial to be placed at J.W. Smith. Bollinger said a bench bearing Mercedes' name and a tree planted in her honor have been proposed.

Although Bollinger didn't have the opportunity to meet Mayfield, she said her first graders are pen-pals with Kim Bolte's students at J.W. Smith. Bolte was Mayfield's teacher.

"It appears Mercedes was a precious little girl, and Mrs. Bolte commented that she had 'adorable hairdos' everyday," Bollinger said. "Our community is hurting from the loss and we wanted to engage students in a positive experience after such a tragic one."

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Crystal Dey
Crystal Dey covers crime, courts and Beltrami county government for The Bemidji Pioneer. Originally from Minnesota’s Iron Range, Dey has worked for the Echo Press in Alexandria, Minnesota, The Forum in Fargo, North Dakota, The Tampa Tribune in Tampa, Florida, the Hartford Courant in Hartford and West Hartford News in West Hartford, Connecticut. Dey studied Mass Communications at Minnesota State University Moorhead with an emphasis in Online Journalism. Follow Crystal Dey on Twitter @Crystal_Dey.
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