A fighter, role model, example of hope
By Heather Murschel Black Hills Pioneer | Posted: Tuesday, November 12, 2013 11:30 am
SPEARFISH — When a Black Hills State University student was diagnosed with cancer and requested time off from
classes, but chose not to withdraw completely, her drive to continue her education caught the attention of a faculty member.
Despite her ongoing treatments, Elissa Varner’s dream to graduate in December inspired Micheline Nelson to follow her
Nelson, the director of BHSU office of field experiences, said Varner hasn’t let
her cancer diagnosis stop her from accomplishing this goal. With one month until finals, Varner is set to graduate with an
early childhood and special education composite major. A milestone in itself, her fight to survive continues through her many
visits, tests, and treatments at doctors’ offices, clinics, and the John T. Vucurevich Cancer Care Institute.
“When not in treatment, she shows up at the school to faithfully continue her internship,” Nelson said.
“There are difficult days, but her determination to graduate is stronger. A single mother of two daughters, Varner is
a fighter, a role model, and a perfect example of hope.”
So, Nelson put on a different hat,
and as the secretary of the Black Hills Chapter of the American Legion Riders, she knew how to make Varner’s life just
a little easier. She talked to her fellow chapter members about helping Varner as part of their National Make-A-Difference
Day service project.
This all came about four days before that Saturday, so Nelson said everyone
pulled together and began making preparations.
After meeting Varner and her father, Nelson discovered
the only concern for the family at that time was how they could complete some outdoor projects in need of attention. Through
conversations she and other members of the chapter found out that Varner really needed a yard shed to store outdoor furniture
tractor mower, and additional tools to give her space in her garage to park her car for the winter.
two riders, Russell Edwards from Deadwood and Royce Lyons from Belle Fourche, met with her father to assess the needs. By
Saturday, Royce had purchased the materials needed to complete the project,” Nelson said.
Childers used the winnings from the 2013 Optimist Club Youth Ride Poker Run to pay for the materials and a metal shed, and
Lynn Pohlman donated waterproof sealant for the deck.
Thankful for the blue skies and sunshine
that day, about 20 volunteers arrived at Varner’s home determined to finish every project on the list, knowing the difficulties
she is dealing with and her determination to lead a normal life and complete her projects.
tools, tables, extension cords were down-loaded from pickups ready for the day. Teams divided the list of projects to accomplish,”
After six hours of continuous work, and some help from family friends, the shed was
up and ready to fill, and her garage was ready for her car. In addition, volunteers repaired damages caused by the October
blizzard, such as and cutting and staining lattice around the deck, raking the yard, cutting down tree branches and broken