Arik Matson

Arik Matson

WASECA -- After a police officer was shot outside his home, Waseca High School's longtime theater director is turning a performance into a way to give back to the officer and his family.

Led by Jack Williams, Waseca students are bringing "CARL" -- an award-winning one-act play written by Williams -- back to the stage. They are inviting community members to a performance Saturday and taking donations for officer Arik Matson and his family.

Matson was shot Jan. 6 and flown to a Twin Cities hospital, where he remains in critical condition. An update posted Monday afternoon on a GoFundMe page for the family said Matson was still in the ICU but has been "steadily improving."

"Things are moving in the right direction, but he has a long road of recovery and therapy in front of him," the post states.

Matson was shot by a wanted man as he and other officers responded to a suspicious person call. When officers found Tyler Robert Janovsky, 37, of Waseca, he was on an exterior porch at the Williams' home on Third Avenue SE. Janovsky allegedly fired three shots at officers, hitting Matson in the head.

It's unclear what Janovsky was doing on the porch, investigators said last week. He had been living a block away but had been wanted by authorities after a methamphetamine lab allegedly was found in the basement in December.

Williams did not want to talk about what he witnessed that night in any detail.

"It was a horrendous experience," he said.

He said the Matson family is in his prayers, and he is grateful for the Waseca police officers and other authorities who were called to his home.

Williams retired several years ago after over 30 years of teaching and 40 years of directing plays at Waseca Junior and Senior High School. But he returned this winter to lead the one-act play.

It was an obvious idea, Williams said, to make a performance a fundraiser for the injured officer who serves as the district's DARE officer.

Williams and drama students are restaging "CARL" -- a 35-minute play Williams wrote 30 years ago about bullying. Based in part on some of his students' real-life experiences with bullying, Williams said he has added a few updates to the script.

"It's a message not only for high schoolers, but one adults also need to see. It's (bullying) not going away," Williams said.

As the participants prepare to enter the state high school league one-act play contest, they will give a performance for the community and accept free-will donations for the Matson family.

The young Waseca actors aren't the only students giving to the injured officer and his family.

The Windom High School girls varsity hockey team donated all of its admission proceeds from from its home game last Thursday against Waseca. The Crosby-Ironton High School basketball teams also took a collection at games last week. Instead of school colors, fans were asked to wear blue and black (colors often associated with law enforcement). The district's athletic director, Jared Matson, is Arik Matson's brother.

Donations continue to pour in on the GoFundMe page established by a family friend. More than 3,000 people had donated nearly $165,000 as of Monday afternoon.

Small retailers from Crosby to Matson's hometown of Albert Lea continue to sell T-shirts and other items with #MatsonStrong and other tributes and will donate proceeds to the family.

As 4-Seasons Athletics in Waseca takes orders for apparel and coffee mugs, co-owner Jaala Miller said she hopes the spotlight that the shooting has brought upon Waseca isn't entirely negative. She hopes everyone also sees how the community comes together in times of tragedy.

"We care a lot about each other and we band together," she said.

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