When the normally bubbly, active 5-year old Harlee Salmi said she didn’t feel well and complained of a sore neck, no one could have known what lay ahead.
In the emergency room in Kalispell on Saturday, May 4, Harlee was found to have a very aggressive, noncurable brainstem tumor, and within hours had been flown to Children’s Hospital in Denver, which offers state-of-the-art oncology expertise. After a few days at home, Harlee is back in Denver for treatment with her mom, Taylor, by her side. And her family and community right behind her.
Several people have stepped up to help raise funds to help the Salmi family with the sudden onslaught of travel and treatment expenses, housing in Denver, plus the loss of family income. Both parents (Taylor and Matt) are off work to care for Harlee and her two siblings, Peyton and Cooper. Volunteers are contributing meals, babysitting, rides, and anything else they can.
Stacy Gray, a 2018 Hot Springs graduate, now a freshman at Flathead Valley Community College, is one of the people who jumped in to help. She says she loves this family, for whom she used to babysit the kids. Taylor, currently director of the Sanders County Educational Services Co-op, coached Stacy in middle school and high school volleyball.
Stacy started a Facebook page “Hope for Harlee.” There, a continuous stream of events and items for sale, with proceeds going to Harlee, are intermixed with updates and hopeful messages, as the little girl begins radiation treatment to attempt to shrink the tumor and improve her quality of life.
A GoFundMe site called “Support for Harlee and Salmi Family!” had raised over $21,000 as of Sunday, May 12. A second page has also collected at least $6,000.
STACY’S FRIEND, and relative of Harlee’s Traci Salmi, of Mimzie’s Creations in Lonepine, donated the design for “Hope for Harlee” T-shirts which are selling like hotcakes for $15 ($12 for kids). The annual Car and Bike Show at Homesteader Days, June 8, is donating all proceeds. One person is holding a Pampered Chef party fundraiser, while several others are donating the proceeds from sales of their arts and crafts and other products online.
There is an auction and concert planned for June 28 at the rodeo grounds, with high-energy country musician and Missoula native Sam Riddle performing. Carmen Jackson and Michelle Bangen of Hot Springs School are handling that event and are collecting auctions for a silent and live auction. Riddle is offering his talents for free, and has reached out to Harlee with a personal message of support.
A bank account has been set up at Valley Bank. Any branch can accept donations to the account.
Collection jars are being placed around the area and have already brought in over $500. More are being put together, as people hear of the situation and offer to place them.
Stacy also spoke with her boss at Cold Stone Creamery in Kalispell, who agreed to host a fundraiser Wednesday, May 29, from 5 to 9 p.m. with 15 percent of profits to go to Harlee and her family.
For more information, visit the Hope for Harlee Facebook page, or call Amy Gray at Hot Springs City Hall, 406-741-2353.