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School staff, student council organizes fundraiser for BVHS alumna
By By Jill Meier
Challenger editor

March 21. 2014 9:14AM
Dodgeball will be played and tacos-in-a-bag will be served up on Friday evening, March 28 to help out a member of the Brandon Valley School District family.

The student council at Brandon Valley High and district staff is organizing the fundraiser to aid Brandi Vermeer, a 2001 BVHS grad, and her parents, Burt and Leeann, with ongoing medical expenses. Brandi, now 32, was born with Spina bifida, which is a congenital defect of the spine in which part of the spinal cord and its meninges are exposed through a gap in the backbone. The disease often causes paralysis of the lower limbs, and sometimes mental handicap.

Mark Schlekeway, assistant principal at BVHS, said the benefit is being planned to help “one of their own.” Leeann Vermeer has worked 28 years as a custodian for the school district, while her husband, Burt, has worked for the City of Brandon the last 10 years.

“Leeann and Burt have lived in our school district for 40 years and they never miss an opportunity to attend as many athletic events as possible here at BVHS,” Schlekeway said. “Unfortunately, this past year with Brandi’s health issues, they have not been able to be here as much as they would have liked.”

Now, Schlekeway and the BVHS student council are asking the community to “be there” for the Vermeer family next Friday.

“Please mark Friday, March 28 on your calendar as a night out for you and your family,” Schlekeway encourages. “I can promise that it will be a fun event for our community.”

While the Vermeer family has learned to live with Brandi’s Spina bifida diagnosis, last May, doctors found that she needed the shunt in her head replaced.

Leann Vermeer said the shunt has been replaced periodically in her daughter’s 32 years, with Brandi’s first surgery at just two days old.

It was during that surgery that doctors found the shunt itself was OK but they discovered there were five lesions in the area. After being seen by a host of medical specialists and a trip to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., Brandi and her parents learned the lesions were cancerous.

“The lesions on her skull were the size of a nickel up to the size of a quarter,” Leann said, noting the stage 4 cancer had to be aggressively treated.

In August, Brandi began a series of 12 chemotherapy treatments; her final treatment was on Dec. 30, Leann said.

“When we were told she was cancer-free, that was awesome news,” Leeann said.

During the chemotherapy treatment process, Brandi’s immune system was weakened so much to the point that a 12-week hospital stay resulted.

In January, however, Brandi received the news she was hoping to hear: she was cancer-free.

But the good news was only temporary, as recently, additional complications have surfaced, placing her back in the hospital, this time from four to six weeks.

Leeann said her daughter, who is fortunately not confined to a wheelchair like many others with Spina bifida are she takes each day in stride.

“She is such a trooper, but it’s all she knows,” Leann said. “Through all of this, she did really well, if you can say that about going through all of this. But everybody’s been really concerned. They’re always asking about her and tell me they’re praying for her, which is the best thing for me to hear.”
What: Benefit for Brandi Vermeer, 2001 BVHS graduate. Adult and high school dodgeball tournament and freewill donation meal.

When: Friday, March 28 – Meal (5:30 to 7 p.m., Taco-in-a-bag, meatless chili, rootbeer floats, desserts); Dodgeball Tourney (6:15 p.m. – adult and high school-aged divisions)

Where: BVHS indoor activity center

Cost: $30 per dodgeball team; meal – freewill donation

To learn more: Contact Mark Schlekeway at or call 582-3211.

Brandi Vermeer Submitted photo

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