I didn't plan on taking my daughter shopping last Saturday. After all, we were headed to a big Junior Olympic tournament at the high school in Pipestone, not to a mall.
The agenda was bumps, sets and spikes, not belts, shoes and shirts. It was a day for volleyball, not shopping, although my daughter has already proven those are two things she can do all day. I had no notion of buying anything at the tournament outside of some Gatorade, a walking taco or two and a giant pickle at the concessions stand.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the high school gym Saturday morning.
Even at 7:30 in the morning, there was plenty of buzz at the school, and as we made our way deeper into the heart of the school, we learned that besides the volleyball tournament there was a rummage sale fundraiser going on all day at the school.
This was no ordinary fundraiser. This wasn't a group trying to raise some cash for a class trip, or some new computers, or for new carpet in the teachers' lounge. This wasn't about new uniforms for the cheerleaders, or new microscopes and test tubes for the science lab. This was an event that makes you forget to be cynical, one organized by a teacher and a group of students to help a family forced to learn to cope without one of their own - a little girl who fought every day to make sure her disease didn't define her and keep her from being a kid.
Jordyn Kate Olsen's fight ended March 20. She was 7. But the impact she had on an entire community was obvious to anyone at the high school last weekend.
Jordyn, a lover of animals, Barbies, cheeseballs, and spending time on the farm and, yes, even at school, was diagnosed with neuroblastoma in June 2007, then was NED (no evidence of disease) from 2010 to last March. That's when another blow came in the form of a secondary cancer, osteosarcoma. Her mother, Jodie, said Jordyn's treatments had to be limited, however, as she had had so many chemo treatments in the past that she had hit her lifetime max. Jodie said it is believed the osteosarcoma in her pelvis was a result of radiation from a 2008 bone marrow transplant.
Through it all, Jodie said, her daughter always walked around with "the biggest smile on her face throughout her treatments."
n With more than a dozen volleyball teams at the school, Saturday was the ultimate day to hold this special rummage sale, and it was no coincidence the sale took place during the volleyball tournament.
"We decided that would be a good time to do it," said Amy Thompson, a high school math theater at Pipestone Area School who provided some of the muscle behind the rummage sale. "One of the teachers is a JO volleyball coach and we all agreed it was a good time to do it with all those teams there. It was something nice for the parents to do while at the school."
So, multiply the number of teams by about 10 and you have hundreds of girls, plus their parents, milling around the school from 8 in the morning until 4 in the afternoon. The school was a zoo - the ideal atmosphere for fundraising. The gym might have seen the most action Saturday, but the sale, which took up all of one very wide hallway just off the cafeteria, fared pretty well, too.
The items at the rummage ranged from kids clothes, to adult clothes, to electronics, to knickknacks. Not all the items had price tags on them, and for the ones that didn't, shoppers could make their own offer. In all, the event raised more than $800. And the items that weren't sold at the sale were donated to Volunteers of Mercy, a thrift store in Pipestone that sells gently-used clothing, furniture and household items to the Pipestone community at a low cost.
n One thing schools have the power to do is bring a community together - whether it's with athletics and a state tournament run or a fundraising venture like the one that at the high school in Pipestone last weekend. This is what small towns do.
"It means a lot to have such great community support," Jodie said. "Jordyn was a little girl with a great love that touched all ages. Jordyn loved to help others smile and these kids really pulled a 'Jordyn,' you could say - they helped us smile."
Thompson said it has been a rough couple of weeks for the people of Pipestone, especially for those close to Jordyn's age.
"It's just so hard when somebody so young passes away," she said. "She was such a fighter. It's a hard time."
In the end, my daughter, spent from playing five volleyball matches in six hours, walked away with eight new-to-her shirts we bought at the sale. She also left that day feeling both sad about a little girl who didn't have a chance to grow up and do things like play volleyball, yet good because we were able to help a family we've never met in some small way. I don't know how far our $16 will go, but I'd like to think it will make a difference.
Who would've known the best thing that happened at the school that day would take place in some hallway and not in the gym.