Community rallies in support of Summersett family
A large crowd of local residents filled the South Adams Middle School for a spaghetti supper, complete with plenty of pastries, to help raise funding for the family of Nikki Summersett on Saturday evening.
Summersett, who had been diagnosed with breast and liver cancer in early summer, passed away earlier this month after a gallant fight with the dreaded disease and an inspiring spiritual journey that has touched many lives in the local community over the past several months.
Saturday evening, hundreds of Berne residents came out to help support Summersett's husband, Jeff, and children, following thousands of dollars of investment for medical, travel and other bills associated with Nikki's illness.
At approximately 10 p.m. Saturday evening, it was discovered that community efforts over the past few weeks had, in actuality, raised nearly $42,000 to assist with needs accrued by the illness. Of that amount, over $4,000 was raised through donations for the supper, over $32,000 was raised through the auction and an earlier pancake supper held at the Belle Tower Grille had raised in excess of $5,000 toward the family needs.
In addition, it was noted that several local businesses and private gifts have been given anonymously on behalf of the need.
Various members of the Summersett family said on Saturday evening that, "humbled," is the only word they can think of concerning the community outpouring and support.
"I was humbled from the very beginning," said Nikki's father, Steve Haines. "From Nikki's trust in God to the community support, there was a sense of humility from the very beginning that was greater than I had ever known. It sinks in after awhile.
"It made me feel as though Nikki had such wisdom for this," continued Haines. "There were a lot of things we didn't put together at the time that are starting to sink in. We were so busy for six months. We had hoped that things would go out a lot longer than this, perhaps many years. We never realized that this was all going to occur so soon."
"Nikki would have been very surprised," commented Jeff Summersett, her husband. "All of the stuff (for the auction) that they had in here was overwhelming. I am very humbled, so thankful to everyone."
Nikki's brother, Justin Haines, who works in New York City, said that after living in New York City, it is very humbling to see the way small communities still come together to help their own.
"Her story was really inspirational to people in New York," said Justin. "My whole kickball team sent flowers to us. There's no doubt about it, New York City supported Nikki. I told everyone in my office about what this community is doing. They all think that it is cool."
Hundreds of donations had come from businesses and the private sector throughout the area. Many things had been mailed in memory of Nikki from other communities and even states. The variety of items ranged from many sports tickets, household items, furniture and various types of gift certificates. An Indiana University basketball weekend, including parking and other amenities, went for $1,050. A half steer went for $1,000. Several furniture items from local stores approached $1,000.
"I am so overwhelmed by the generosity of this community," said auctioneer Chris Yoder. "The items that were donated, the spirit of bidding and the giving attitude was so amazing. I can't thank the community enough for its support of this. This was all just great; it's Christmas, the economy is down and yet people from this community gave way beyond our expectations."
"I've been involved in a number of other benefits, but I've never been involved in one for a close family member before," commented auctioneer Bill Liechty, a close family member. "Yes, there was a lot of attachment to this particular auction for that reason. It was quite an experience."
One unique gift was nine bags of seed corn that brought the crowd to its feet in applause when it sold for $2,300. Everyone laughed when tickets were presented for a Colts' game with the inscription, "value as a good year." Others donated labor. Jerry and Sue Sprunger donated a major picnic and recreation day during the summer of 2012, a summer party that someone purchased for $425.
One visitor present from Warsaw, Heidi Floyd, appeared and gave several words of affirmation about how much Nikki had touched her life through her battle with cancer.
"I was diagnosed with cancer when I was pregnant. I met Nikki and added her to my prayer list," said Lloyd, whose husband, Stuart, is pastor of Redeemer Church in Warsaw. "I went to see her when she had her treatment. There was grace in her eyes that was unlike any I had ever seen. I realized what true grace really is; I saw it in her eyes.
"I said to myself, 'I want that grace as well,'" continued Lloyd. "I want to thank you as a family for sharing her grace and beauty. Thank you for sharing this beautiful person with me. I will always tell of her wherever I go."
Both Chelsea Pulfer and Tammy Meyer, who teamed up to organize the event, described their reaction as, "speechless," at the impact of the fundraiser.
"I don't have the words to express what I think," said Pulfer. "It is unbelievable the way people responded. We are so grateful."
"The community support has been wonderful," said Meyer. "It is such a blessing to see the way the people came out. We are very humbled by everyone's humility to help Jeff and the kids."
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