Alan Sorensen Havre Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
Fewer than 1,000 but more than 500 people accounting for nearly $17,000 in donations turned out for the Jim Clark Benefit spaghetti dinner and silent auction Saturday evening at St. Jude Parish Center. “It is really amazing,” said Shauna Albrecht, who helped put the the fundraiser together with Patsy Divish, Debbie Ritz and Sheila Barthel, said of the turnout. “It was incredible, too, the number of people who volunteered to help. We just had overwhelming extremes of people to help with it.” By the time St. Jude Parish Center was cleaned and ready for the next day, more than 50 volunteers had contributed their talents. “We didn’t actually count (how many people came),” Albrecht said, who works with Jim Clark’s wife, Betty, at Montana State University- Northern. “I had 1,000 place mats, I think we went through 750. Some people came but didn’t eat. We had long lines for some time.” Albrecht said the idea for the fundraiser for Clark, who owns and operates the Sears Store in the Havre Holiday Village Shopping Center with his wife, arose after he was diagnosed with cancer in early August. “Initially, they had found two tumors and since then they have found others,” Albrecht said. “The main one they were concerned with was the one attached to his spine. There are so many nerves that run through there and the spinal cord and everything.” Albrecht said Clark underwent surgery on his spine at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle and is said to be “doing pretty good.” “He had surgery a week ago Thursday,” Albrecht said. “That was when they removed the vertebrae from his spine that the Tumor was attached to, but it didn’t affect his spinal cord, which was real good. And he is beginning radiation this week for 10 days and then chemo after that.” Albrecht said Clark was first diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma, kidney cancer, last month. “They went to Great Falls Aug. 9 for an MRI and that’s when they found the two tumors,” Albrecht said. “About a week and a half after that they went to Seattle.” Betty Clark, who accompanied Jim to Seattle Aug. 20 and remained with him at Pete Gross House near the hospital, returned to Havre late Tuesday. She said she and Jim were stunned when they heard about the turnout for the fundraiser. “As they were describing it, we were just taken aback and overwhelmed by it,” Betty said. “I didn’t even know about it until about five days before. It was so overwhelming, the love and concern coming from this communi ty gives you the strength to keep going.” She said she was equally in awe of the response from their employees at Sears. “They’ve taken over and done such a wonderful job,” she said. “I know what an imposition it is on their lives and what a hardship it is for them, but they have just stepped up to take care of the night duties and weekend duties. And the college is its usual great place.” Clark’s daughters Jennifer and Jamee both spent time with their folks in Seattle. And in Betty’s absence from Jim’s bedside, other Havre people and relatives will go out to spend time in Seattle with him. “They have friends who will fly out to be with him,” Albrecht said. “Right now, Ed Divish and John Leeds are spending the week with him.” Clark’s brother Tim is going out to be with Jim today and brother Dick will go out later, Betty said. Albrecht said that people who want updates on Clark’s condition can go to Web page set up especially for him by the hospital. “People can post messages there as well,” Albrecht said. “It’s really an amazing page and some of the messages people are writing, it’s really cool.” “The response to the Web page has been just amazing,” Betty Clark said Wednesday, adding that the Postal Service has been busy, too. “The lady at Pete Gross House said, Where does this mail come from every day.’ We get so many cards every day; he’ll get things from St. Jude fourthgrade class. He said, I didn’t think these people even knew us and they’re showing us the love.’ “He tells the people out there, you should see the town we come from.” Life has been hectic, Betty Clark said, apologizing for not answering all of the cards and letters that have piled up. “I’m very, very behind in my thanks, but our thanks are totally there,” she said. Betty said they went to Great Falls thinking Jim’s arthritis was just getting worse and that he might have a ruptured disc, but the results came back five days later and they were told it was cancer. They went to Seattle thinking he had two tumors and that they might have to stay there a month at most. “They did a head-to-toe bone scan,” Betty said. “They said you have a spot on your skull, seven spots on your lungs, a very large tumor on your left hip and it’s in your back, on your spine, and the main tumor is in the kidney.” The surgery to remove the tumor from his hip took seven hours, she said, and the surgery on his spine took even longer. “They’ve been very honest,” Betty said about the doctors in Seattle. “They said they can’t cure the kidney cancer, but they want to stop it.” Betty said Jim has been in great pain, but refuses to show it. “Jim said there’s a reason (for the cancer),” she said. “He looks around at the small children and it breaks his heart and he says we’ll get through it.” Clark started his radiation treatment Tuesday and is scheduled to begin his chemo therapy Oct. 10 if all goes well. Betty said she had hoped to be home for a month to catch up with work at the store and college, but Jim insists she come back Oct. 7 to be with him when the chemo starts. She said the hospital staff and everyone in Seattle have been a blessing. “Everything is so phenomenal,” she said. “They are so kind; their compassion, caring are wonderful. You almost forget and think you’re back in Havre.” As for the fundrai ser, Albrecht said a raffle for a quilt made by Kemi Velk and donated by the Hi-Line Quilt Guild alone raised $909. The quilt was won by Roger Barber and Mary VanBuskirk. To access the Jim Clark Web page, go to www.carepages. com, register and then type in JimClarkMT in the search space provided.