Co-workers rally to help nurse's grandchild

Tuesday, June 12, 2012
(Photos contributed) Joan Pundt, center, was presented last month with a several hundred dollar donation raised by co-workers at Floyd Valley Hospital in support of Pundt's granddaughter, Olivia, 3, who was diagnosed with leukemia last year. Pundt is pictured with granddaughter, Olivia, (inset) who faces another two years of a three-year treatment program.

Joan Pundt's co-workers at Floyd Valley Hospital surprised the registered nurse with a gift for her granddaughter who's battling cancer.

Pundt, of Maurice, said she received a several hundred dollar donation from co-workers and friends collected through the sale of T-shirts.

"It makes me cry. They didn't have to do that," Pundt said, wiping away tears. "That was really neat."

Those dollars will help pay medical bills for her granddaughter, Olivia Haugan, 3, of Sioux Falls, S.D., who was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) last July.

Pundt said she never expected her co-workers and friends would get together to raise money for her granddaughter, whom most have never met.

Kayla Eilts, a registered nurse at Floyd Valley Hospital who spearheaded the project, said she wanted to do something to support Pundt, whom she works with on the night shift.

"Joan and I are very close," Eilts said. "It's been very, very hard for Joan."

Eilts came up with the idea to sell T-shirts -- designed by co-worker Tracy Luchtel-Jackson -- to anyone who wanted to help Olivia's family with medical bills.

"There were an abundance of different departments that bought them so it was very nice," Eilts said. "Some of them don't really see her a whole lot but ordered them."

Eilts said when she began selling the T-shirts she never expected them to be such a big hit.

"I was shocked by how many people bought the shirts," she said. "I got the word out and sold 62 of them."

The pink T-shirts have the words Team Olivia in sprawling script on the front and the phrase "Just a Whole Situation" printed on the back along with butterflies.

"Olivia's favorite things in the world are butterflies so I went with the butterfly scene," said Jackson, a nurse's aid.

As for the "Just a Whole Situation" phrase, that is unique to Pundt, something she says on a regular basis, Jackson said.

"If she gets frustrated or has a bad day, she says 'it's just a whole situation,'" Jackson explained.

The words Team Olivia were borrowed from Olivia's parents, Joy and Ryan Haugan, who coined the phrase.

"That's what we've dubbed all the people that love and support her," Joy said. "We're all Team Olivia because we're the people that want to support her so she gets what she needs to get healthy."

Joy said she and Ryan we're humbled by the money raised for Olivia by Pundt's co-workers.

"It's amazing," Joy said. "It was so surprising they took the time to do this for us."

Eilts said she wanted to help because she could see Pundt was struggling.

"I thought raising a little money would help with finances," Eilts said. "You kind of feel helpless in those situations and that's all you really can do."

Joy said she is thankful for the several hundred dollars raised by her mom's co-workers as Olivia will soon begin another phase of treatment including radiation on her brain.

She explained that Olivia's leukemia has been in remission since last September, but she is undergoing a three-year treatment program.

"The goal is go get every spot possible where there may have been leukemia," Joy said. "There's still two years of chemo after the brain radiation."

Pundt said it's been a tough year for her family dealing with Olivia's cancer, but the support of her peers makes a difference.

She was presented with a T-shirt and the donation last month by a large group of her co-workers and friends wearing their own shirts in a surprise gathering.

"I don't even know who was all there," Pundt said. "I didn't know about the money."

She said she didn't have the words to describe how it felt to see all those people gathered in support of her and Olivia.

"I just want people to know how special these people are that I work with," Pundt said. "It's a caring group of co-workers."

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