'We just band together': Various communities show ‘love and compassion’ toward Jorda and her fight
Minutes before the Dickinson High volleyball team hit the floor for pre-match warmups against Mandan at home on Sept. 13, senior setter Lauren Jorda was at a loss for words.
As the players sat in the locker room in preparation for the match, Jorda was asked to go into the training room for a moment. When she returned to the locker room, her teammates were wearing teal T-shirts with "Her battle is our battle LJ" printed on the front and the Psalm 46:5 Bible verse "God is within her, she will not fall" on the back.
Surprised, Jorda was near tears.
Just one week prior to what would be her season debut against Bismarck Legacy, Jorda announced to the team that she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer after a doctor's visit that morning.
"It was pretty tough, but we all just told her that we were going to be there for her no matter," junior outside hitter Taylor Nelson said. "We knew it wasn't going to be easy for her, so we were just there for her support. It took us all by surprise, but we knew we were going to help her through it."
Jorda competed in Dickinson's home victory against Minot two days later before making her announcement public on Sept. 9. The Midgets collected a road victory over Watford City before returning to face the Braves in the team's first home match since the news was made public.
Organized in just a week's time, both the Midgets and Braves players donned the T-shirts during warmups while fans throughout the crowd and nearly the entire student section wore teal clothing, as teal is the color that represents ovarian cancer.
A fundraiser was created online where the tees could be purchased, raising $3,012 as of Oct. 7.
"It's just been cool to see the T-shirts in places you wouldn't even think of. There's just been a lot of support," senior defensive specialist Madi Eckelberg said.
The support has stretched well into the North Dakota volleyball community, where it has almost become the norm to see players from various teams near and far wearing the Jorda T-shirt during warmups. That support includes the Midgets' neighbors in red at Dickinson Trinity High School.
"I think it kind of puts things in perspective and what we work for every day, and to see Lauren be so strong, keep playing and keep fighting, I think that's a hope for everyone, that she's going to come out even stronger," Dickinson Trinity head coach Breanna Sisson said. "And to see everybody wear those teal T-shirts, it's nice to know that's there's a support system, not just in the community, but around the state. Volleyball, for us, is how we are connected with Lauren, so it becomes a family thing."
In the following weeks since her announcement, Dickinson High School National Honor Society organized a bake sale to help with Jorda's travel and medical costs.
Separate from the NHS, with the help of her follow classmates, Dickinson High senior Addie Kuehl has been selling wristbands with the Psalm 46:5 verse inscribed on it, with all the proceeds going to Jorda's family.
"First we talked to Lauren. She's in National Honor Society, so we had a meeting, talked to her to make sure what she would be comfortable with," Kuehl said. "A bake sale she thought was a great idea; they are really popular in school and they're easy for us to do. Then the bracelets she designed with me, and she really likes them. We gave those to her and her family and we've seen them throughout the community just to raise support for her.
"I've known Lauren since I moved here when I was little, so we are pretty good friends. Hearing that news was just crushing for everyone in our school, even if they didn't know Lauren personally. Just to see everyone band together for her, even they aren't her best friend, is an amazing feeling."
Down the street at Dickinson State University, members of the Nursing Student Association presented Jorda with a gift basket filled with gift cards, gas cards and other items on Oct. 4.
After a member of the association caught wind of Jorda's diagnosis, the group decided to raffle off stethoscopes at the Sanford Health West Dickinson Clinic.
"It wasn't really hard for us to decide if we wanted to help or not, it was a pretty easy decision for us to want to do that for her," NSA treasurer Sarah Kruger said. "When we went to the hospital and the clinic, people were following us around wanting to donate, 'Oh, I heard you were here for this. Here's money for this.' Everybody was so enthused to help. It's so rewarding to see this in a community we live in. ... A lot of people donated and didn't even want the raffle tickets."
The donations made from the raffle, as well as an additional donation made by the NSA and the department of nursing, were used to purchase the items in the gift basket, totaling nearly $600.
"It feels great, it makes you feel good to be giving back to the community and to do your part to help somebody who needs it," NSA director of funds Jodie Artz said. "Even if you don't know them, it's a good feeling. ...The unity that it shows, it shows that people can come together when people are in need. That's really eye-opening."
In attendance for the gift basket presentation were Jorda's parents, Tom and Arlys, who say the support coming from all directions has been extraordinary.
"Grateful is the one word I can come up with because it's really making a difference in her fight," Tom Jorda said. "We are basically quiet people, but for this to happen to this level and extent — teams throughout the state are reaching out to her, people we don't even know are reaching out to her because of sportsmanship. You can't explain it; the nature of the people and community is phenomenal. ... The prayers and well-wishes are beyond belief. It's constant."
One day later, the Midgets volleyball team welcomed Turtle Mountain to Dickinson High School Gymnasium for a conference battle. Before the match after starting introduction, the Bravettes players embraced Lauren Jorda and presented her with a $200 donation.
"I cried on the way down here because of the kind of kids they are. They don't know Lauren, but they felt that they needed to be there and show support," Turtle Mountain head coach Cindy Keplin said. "That's who they are; they are willing to support anybody and what they are going through and show love and compassion."
Following her team's victory over the Bravettes, Lauren Jorda took a moment to reflect on what it's been like to be on the opposite side of assists.
"There's really no words to put in to how it really feels," Lauren Jorda said. "I know Dickinson is a tight-knit community; we're not a big, huge town. So everyone kind of knows everyone and when something happens like this, we just band together. It's unreal."