Rasmussen College Moorhead campus nursing students and faculty came together to hold a benefit for Zach Rummel, a 9-year-old boy who was diagnosed in January with astrocytoma—a rare brain tumor located on his brain stem.
“The moment the students found out about Ellen’s son’s diagnosis, they started planning and looking for donations,” said Stacy Bosch, nursing faculty member at the Moorhead campus. “For me personally, Ellen has been my go-to person since I started at Rasmussen College. She is a mentor to me, someone who I look up to. I knew that when she needed me I needed to be there for her.”
Due to the size and location of Zach’s tumor, it cannot be operated on, so he has been receiving chemotherapy and radiation treatments at St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., since the end of January.
“He was given a second chance at life by being sent to St. Jude’s,” Rummel said. “Now, we have time with him we would have not otherwise had, as there were no options for him [at home].”
Fortunately, the nursing students, faculty and many other people were able to swiftly plan Zach’s benefit; it took place at Fargo, N.D., entertainment center The Bowler. Items were donated for live and silent auctions from local businesses, artists, photographers and sports teams. Baked goods and craft items were also for sale during the event.
“There was a tremendous turnout and the benefit brought in a very high dollar amount,” Bosch said.
The Lend-A-Hand program, through Dakota Medical Foundation, also offered to match up to $5,000 of donations made during the benefit. Large donations were also made by Eventide, Pray for Gray and Morgan’s Wish.
The family plans to use the donations for Zach’s medical bills, medications, medical equipment and a full-time caregiver. Additionally, they’ll use it for physical and occupational therapy and some travel expenses as they make their way back and forth to St. Jude’s every other month.
“We don’t know what his other needs will be in the future, but all the funds will be used toward Zach’s medical expenses and making sure he has the best quality of life possible,” Rummel said. “To our family, it is not about the money, but the kindness and support offered to a very sweet child on a very scary journey with a family who loves him very much.”
The fight will go on
Zach returned home to West Fargo on March 25, after eight weeks in Memphis. He will return to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital every two months. During his first stint at St. Jude’s, Zach completed six weeks of radiation along with daily chemotherapy. He got to take a month off from all treatments in April. Now, he’s on maintenance chemotherapy once a month for five days.
“We don’t officially know what the treatments did to his tumor—yet,” Ellen said. “However, the fact that he can remain off steroids and has improved overall are all good signs. He seems to be getting stronger every day and is happy, though he tires easily.”
Additionally, Ellen was fortunate to gain Anne Hanks, a recent Rasmussen College professional nursing graduate, as Zach’s temporary caregiver. She put a note on CaringBridge looking for a temporary caregiver until the summer and Hanks expressed her interest.
“She is the most compassionate, caring and loving person and a perfect match for Zach,” Rummel said. “Caring for a child who just finished radiation and chemotherapy treatments is not easy, but she just stepped right in and not only cares for Zach but our whole family. I am finding that this is the type of people that are attracted to Rasmussen College. Caring for our own seems to be part of the culture.”
Kindness that hasn’t gotten unnoticed
The Rummel family acknowledges and is thankful for the many volunteer hours that were put into the benefit on behalf of Zach, and especially the students that contributed.
“Many of them spent countless hours working on behalf of the benefit and/or showed up to support Zach that evening,” said Ellen. “It’s just amazing when you think of the load a student carries every day, in addition to homework and clinicals, family and jobs.”
The Rummel’s are also thankful for the Rasmussen College family who also contributed time, donated money and offered the facility to gather silent auction items.
“If there is one great thing that has come from this difficult time, it is the kindness of others,” said Ellen.
There was a fundraiser at Space Aliens for Zach in the middle of April, and a carnival at his school Westside Elementary in West Fargo on April 30. All proceeds went to his benefit fund.
Additionally, Ellen hopes to start a foundation in Zach’s name soon to be able to help others that are going through some of the same challenges.
“Our goal is to pay it forward to others in similar situations and provide the same kindness that has been shown to us,” said Ellen.
To help out Zach’s family, donations are being accepted at any Gate City Bank under the Zachary Rummel Benefit account.