Surprise Squad crashes pep rally to give inspiring girl life-changing gifts & a visit from a country music star

Published: Nov. 17, 2022 at 10:27 PM CST
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BREESE, Ill. (KMOV) – The KMOV Surprise Squad crashed a pep rally on their latest mission.

Rae Toennies was a star athlete in grade school. One day, after basketball practice, she arrived home and went to bed with a headache, recalled her mom, Nikki Toennies.

“She calls and says, ‘Mom, come in here; I can’t feel my legs,” she said. “So, I go in her room and she is watermarked on her legs, her nose is purple. She was in the ICU for 106 days, quit moving her legs, quit moving her arms, and at that point, I literally thought she was gone. She had a bacterial blood infection that took over her body.”

“She was a star athlete in grade school. She gets struck with this illness and is confined to a wheelchair now,” Central Community High School Superintendent Dr. Dustin Foutch said. “That would turn a lot of people cold to the world; that would make a lot of people bitter, but not Rae. It hasn’t slowed her down one bit.”

“She loves going to all the football games, basketball games, she goes to all the volleyball games,” said Nikki.

“She approaches the world with love and positive energy, and that’s incredibly inspiring to me,” continued Dr. Foutch.

When the KMOV Surprise Squad heard Rae’s story, they decided to crash a pep rally with surprises worthy of this inspirational fighter. Dr. Foutch welcomed Rae and her family onto the basketball court, and then he announced that News 4′s Matt Chambers and the Surprise Squad had something up their sleeves.

The first surprise presented to Rae was from the Harlem Globetrotters! The team told her next time they were in town that she would be their honorary coach.

Then, Frank Padak, President and CEO of Scott Credit Union, took the microphone to present Rae’s family with a check.

“When Scott Credit Union heard your story, you warmed our hearts and inspired us,” he told Rae. “We understand there’s still some things you need for your home, so on behalf of Scott Credit Union and the Scott Credit Union Community Foundation, we have a check for $5,000 to help you get the equipment you need for your home to make your life a little easier.”

Next up was Frank Squeo, the founder of Baking Memories 4 Kids, a non-profit organization that uses money from cookie sales to help families make memories. He gifted the family an all-expensive paid vacation to all the theme parks in Orlando, Florida!

The final surprise for Rae was a visit from her favorite country music artist.

“We shared your story with a country music artist who actually grew up not too far from here. Anyone know where Patoka, Illinois, is?” Matt asked the crowd.

Rae, realizing whom he was talking about, said, “It’s Drew! Drew Baldridge!”

Matt then welcomed Drew to the gymnasium, where he gave a hug to Rae before taking the mic and beginning to strum on his guitar.

“This song, it’s called ‘She’s Somebody’s Daughter.’ This song has like a whole other meaning today, with all that you’ve been through. You know this, you know how loved you are by your momma, but this song is extra special. This song’s for you, Rae.”

On the final line of the song, Drew changed the lyrics and sang, “Rae’s somebody’s daughter.”

“I just want to say thank you, for all of you, from the bottom of my heart, Surprise Squad, Channel 4, Drew, all of our family, Scott Credit Union, our friends; I can’t thank you all enough,” Nikki then told the crowd.

Watch the extended version, which includes Drew’s full song, below:

KMOV's Surprise Squad enlisted the help of country singer Drew Baldridge for a big surprise in an Illinois gym.