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'Team Janell' has a sea of support

Detroit Lakes High School seniors Heather Neumeister and Ally Nielsen designed pink "Team Janell" t-shirts and sold them for $5. They sold over 1,000 of the shirts and gave the $5,000 they raised to DLHS?counselor Janell Girodat, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001, to use as needed.1 / 2
A favorite saying of Janell Girodat appears on the back of the pink breast cancer t-shirts designed by Ally Nielsen and Heather Neumeister.2 / 2

When Detroit Lakes High School counselor Janell Girodat began fighting cancer, how could she know one day she would be walking into a sea of pink support?

Students and staff gathered Thursday morning in the high school gymnasium, not only to show their support for cancer awareness, but also to show their support for Girodat, most decked out in "Team Janell" shirts. The T-shirt fund-raiser for Girodat began with two high school students, Ally Nielsen and Heather Neumeister, who just wanted to do something nice for Girodat.

Neumeister explained that after battling cancer for seven years, Nielsen's mom talked to Girodat and found "some how to help her out."

The two teens designed pink "Team Janell" T-shirts and sold them for $5. They sold over 1,000 T-shirts, which raised $5,000 for Girodat.

"It got really big, really fast," Nielsen said of the number of T-shirts that sold.

They sold the shirts throughout students and staff at the middle school and high school, and the staff at the rest of the schools, including the ALC. At first they ordered 288 shirts, "thinking that would be more than enough," Neumeister said. They had to go back twice to order more shirts.

Thursday, during Homecoming week, a documentary video by Janaye Johnson was shown during Laker Time, which depicted Girodat's battle thus far.

Keeping the T-shirts under wraps, everyone in the school gathered at 8:30 a.m. in the gymnasium to surprise Girodat with the show of support.

"We got her a pink crown, too," Neumeister said.

The girls explained that inspiration for the shirts came after Girodat had gone to the Roger Maris Cancer Center and the staff was all sporting "Team Maris" shirts. She came back and was talking about how cool that was.

So Neilsen and Neumeister designed their own form of "Team Janell" shirts. On the front is the well-known breast cancer ribbon, with "Team Janell" in different fonts throughout it. The back of the shirts reads, "If God brings you to it, he will bring you through it," a favorite saying of Girodat's.

Girodat, who served as torchbearer in this year's Becker County Relay for Life, began her battle in 2001. She had a sore arm that doctors eventually learned was breast cancer. She has since gone through numerous rounds of radiation and chemotherapy, a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery and the spread of cancer to her lymph system, the fluid around her lungs and chest tissue, lungs, liver and the return to her lungs and liver.

This summer she received the news that the cancerous spots on her lungs and liver have grown and increased and has spread to her tailbone. She continues to take treatment for the cancer, and continue her work at the school.

All the support from school co-workers and students is to show one thing: "We're on her side," Neilsen said. "We're 100 percent behind her," Neumeister added.

"We just really love her and really wanted to help her," she said.