Capstone project supports local charity

Julia Winkeler ’24 presents Erin Kramer ’04 with a check for Gwendolyn's gifts.
Julia Winkeler ’24 presents Erin Kramer ’04 of Gwendolyn's Gifts with a check for $1,650.

One Duchesne High School senior is making a real difference for a local non-profit organization. 

On Friday, December 15, Julia Winkeler ’24 presented Gwendolyn’s Gifts with a check for $1,650 that she raised through several fundraisers she planned as the culmination of her Scholars Academy auxiliary courses. Gwendolyn’s Gifts is a charity that supports the families of children on palliative and hospice care in St. Louis and surrounding areas. It was created in 2019 by DHS alumna Erin Kramer ’04 and her husband, Mark.

Duchesne's Scholars Academy program is the high school version of a university-level master’s thesis, building on concepts learned in previous courses. Students design, execute, and defend a semester-long project while establishing professional relationships and refining collaboration skills. 

Throughout the fall semester, Winkeler raised money for the local charity through bake sales, a Halloween craft night, and a Santa’s workshop event. 

“For my bake sales, I have always made it important to choose a charity that benefits pediatric care,” said Julia. “I was introduced to Gwendolyn’s Gifts by Mrs. [Renee] Moore and thought it was the perfect charity for my capstone project, especially since Erin Kramer is a Duchesne alum.”  

“Julia and I met weekly to make sure her project was on course,” said Duchesne Academic Dean, teacher, and Capstone Advisor Renee Moore ’86. “From the beginning, Julia’s goal was to give back, and she was dedicated to this goal from the first day of the semester. In my estimation, Julia surpassed her goal of raising money as she also raised awareness to members of the Duchesne community, not just about the charity Gwendolyn’s Gifts, but the significance of finding something you are passionate about and going for it!”

Erin and Mark Kramer were inspired to create the charity by their oldest daughter, Gwendolyn, who courageously fought a progressive neurological condition for eight years before passing away on May 12, 2023.

“When I heard about Julia’s decision to dedicate her senior capstone project to raising money for Gwendolyn’s Gifts, I felt proud of her without even knowing her!” said Kramer. “Anytime I witness kids helping kids, I am so thankful and inspired to see compassion and empathy in the next generation!”

The project has made a significant impression on Winkeler as well. 

“The success of my project makes me feel honored to have been given the opportunity to have made all of this possible. Without the support and encouragement from the Duchesne community, I would not have been able to make such a big impact for this charity,” she said. 

“It was truly wonderful to come back to the high school and be a part of Julia’s check presentation to Gwendolyn’s Gifts,” said Kramer. “A special project completed by a special girl in a special place!”