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Gone but not forgotten: Bike trip honors former DL High School counselor Janell Girodat


When Detroit Lakes High School Counselor Janell Girodat left this world due to breast cancer this past spring, she left a legacy that won't soon be forgotten.

"She had such a huge impact on me and just about everybody in the school," said 2011 Detroit Lakes graduate Ashtin Spies, who remembers the day students were told of Girodat's passing.

"It was a somber day," said Spies, "everyone gathered in our main gym, and we took some time to just remember her. We prayed, and every one was crying with each other."

But according to those who knew her best, Janell Girodat didn't have as much time to cry -- she was busy living and taking care of her family, her friends and her students.

"She never gave up," said Alex Potter, a 2010 Detroit Lakes graduate, "She always made it to work because she really cared about what she did -- she wasn't going to let a disease take away her quality of life. She taught us dedication."

Now, Potter and Spies are showing some dedication of their own, as they begin a fundraising campaign to raise money for a bike trip to "conquer cancer."

Potter, a Concordia sophomore and Spies, an NDSU freshman, are both avid bikers.

They say as their enthusiasm for biking grew, so did their idea to do it for a good cause.

They went online to find out which route to go, and in doing so, settled on a bike ride that goes next summer from Toronto, Canada to Niagara Falls.

The 200-mile trip is broken up into two days, and although that may sound like a lot of miles to most, it's the fundraising part that could prove even more challenging for the couple.

"We have to raise $2,500 each to ride," said Potter, "so it's kind of scary thinking we have to come up with $5,000, but we are going to find a way even if we can't get enough donations."

100 percent of the money raised goes towards cancer research at the Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto -- a facility dedicated to cancer treatment and research.

The couple got to choose which particular kind of cancer they wanted to raise money for, and with Mrs. Girodat sitting firmly in their minds and hearts, they chose breast cancer research.

"I remember her always being really strong and straightforward, which I really liked. She never let anything get in her way," said Spies, "so we wanted to do this for her and for all the others suffering from breast cancer."

Potter adds that in addition to doing the ride to honor Girodat, they are also doing it for their hometown, which he says was deeply affected by her death.

None, however, could feel that loss more than Girodat's husband, Gary and her children -- Damien, Megan and Cole.

"Each day is different," said Damien Girodat, also an NDSU student, "It's hard to get used to. My mom told us to be strong, and that's the only thing that we've got. So, we keep going on -- that's what she'd want."

Damien says he remembers the indescribable feeling he had on that day back in 2008 when the whole school wore pink to support his mother.

Now, Girodat says hearing the news of what his fellow Laker alum are doing to honor his mother once again feels "pretty amazing."

"I just see through talking to her past students the inspiration and the example she led through the school," said Girodat, "I can see it paying off through her students, and I think it's just really cool the legacy she's left behind."

As Spies and Potter now work toward their fundraising goal, they are also selling bracelets and are set up on the Enbridge Ride for Cancer website at

To donate to Spies and Potter, (who call themselves the A-Team for the event) click on "donate" and type in either name.

So far the A-Team has raised $300.

"It doesn't matter how much a person donates," said Potter, "A lot of this is just showing support, too. But it would be great if we could raise more than the bare minimum."

The ride happens on June 9, but until then, the busy college students say they will be doing their best to train and fundraise.

"I think things like this are good -- they make us better people," said Spies, "And it shows how everybody can make a difference by just doing a little bit."