Trout Creek community hosts Hula for Harlee

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THE TROUT Creek Hula For Harlee fundraiser kids show off their hula hoop skills. (Photo credit Debbie Phillips/Clark Fork Valley Press)

The Trout Creek community gathered last Friday to host a unique fundraiser to benefit a young girl with rare brain cancer.

Earlier this year, Harlee Salmi, daughter of Hot Springs residents Matt and Taylor Salmi, was diagnosed with a Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma tumor.

This is a rare form of brain cancer which starts as a small tumor at the back of the brain stem and effects many functions of the body.

Often these effects include difficulties balancing and moving, facial weakness and drooping, issues with vision and eye movement as well as difficulty swallowing and eating. It is extremely rare, occurring in only about 10% of all child brain tumors, and it is rarely curable.

The Salmi family has spent thousands on medical care, travel expenses and everything else. While the experience has been a traumatic and devastating one, the light at the end of the tunnel comes from the community they live in.

But Friday, the entire school showed up to try their hands at hula hooping. There were routines and tricks with nearly four dozen students and one dozen parents who showed up to show their support and to donate money to the Salmi family in order to help them with the travel costs of driving to Denver, Colorado.

They must travel there to take Harlee to her doctor’s exams and to get her medication. They go once a month, and the cost is immense.

The school’s hula hoop fundraiser resulted in nearly $1,500 for the family.

The students went around the community to ask for donations prior to the hula day, and some even donated from their own piggy banks and savings for the cause.

In the past Trout Creek has done fundraisers in the spring to benefit the school.

Tracey Bennett, event organizer, said “We wanted to find a different way to do a a fundraiser.”

Bennett explained how much the family has helped the community and how Taylor Salmi, Harlee’s mother, is the Special Education co-op Director for the area. They cover St. Regis, Thompson Falls, Trout Creek, Noxon and Hot Springs. As the director she oversees the areas’ special education programs and helps schools to problem solve how they manage their special education as well as to provide speech and occupational services. She has been with the co-op for seven years now and started as a Speech therapist.

There has also been a bank account with the Valley bank set up to accept donations for Harlee.

Taylor Salmi is extremely thankful to the communities that have shown so much support to her family. She explained that “a lot of funding for pediatric cancer comes from parents and communities, as very little funding exists that comes from anywhere else.”

When asked about her feelings toward the dark events happening to her family she maintains an extremely positive and hopeful attitude, and said “we take every day one minute at a time.”

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