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Local Girl Scouts honor one of their own

This Detroit Lakes Girls Scout troop used its fall fundraiser to generate a donation to the Roger Maris Cancer Center in Fargo as a way to honor little Harmony Jensen's mother, who passed away from cancer during the fundraiser. Pictured left to right are: Payton Suedel, Jaelyn Mercil, Harmony Jensen, Laila Retz, Aiva Mercil, Olivia Schmoll, and Isabel Hunnel. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Some first grade Girl Scouts out of Detroit Lakes got an unexpected life lesson when fundraising this year — a bittersweet one that nobody saw coming.

When little Harmony Jensen joined her troop over a year ago, she signed up under new troop leader Mindy Retz of Detroit Lakes.

All seven little "daisies" were from Roosevelt Elementary and ready to learn how to make the world a better place through their sisterhood.

Last spring, Harmony's mother, Sando Morris, had just been talking about volunteering to help lead her daughter's troop.

"But that week she called me from the hospital and told me she was sick," said Retz. "She told me she had gone in not feeling good and was told she had leukemia."

It was supposed to be the most treatable form of cancer, and according to Retz, everybody had very high hopes that she would beat it..

"But I guess then they found out that Sando was chemo resistant," said Retz, who kept up on Morris's cancer struggle on Facebook. "I knew they were running out of options," said Retz, who was just starting to put together the troop's fall fundraiser of nuts, chocolates and magazines. Retz and the troop knew they wanted to do something good with the money they planned on raising. "And Sando came to me and asked if the money raised could go to the Roger Maris Cancer Center," said Retz, who says that's where Morris had done some of her treatments.

That was plan — to raise money for the snack cart at the cancer center in Fargo which provides snacks to cancer patients and their families staying there.

But as the girls were full steam ahead in their fundraising, Morris was losing steam.

"I know they tried to keep very optimistic with the kids, so I don't know how much they really understood during that time," said Retz, adding that 7-year-old Harmony also had three older brothers going through the ordeal.

"So with all those brothers, the Girl Scouts has kind of been like Harmony's little girl outing," said Retz.

The Girl Scout troop would make "get well" cards for Morris, as they had all gotten to know her through her involvement with the activities, and they knew they were raising money for an organization that helped her. But what they didn't know is that their donation to the cancer center would turn from a donation "in honor" of Sando Morris into a donation "in memory" of her.

At the age of 31, Morris passed away at the end of October before her daughter and the rest of the troop finished the fundraiser.

"I was surprised at how fast it happened," said Retz, who says her responsibility as a Girl Scout leader all of a sudden seemed much deeper that she had anticipated.

Retz says although she left it up to the parents of each child to talk to them about Harmony's mom, she says she wanted her little Daisies to understand that they could make a difference for their "sister."

"I know some of them were a little bit nervous about how to talk to her (Harmony) afterwards, but I just told them that all they needed to do was be a good friend to her — to be there for her and support her with anything she needs," said Retz.

The Daisy troop met recently for their Christmas party, during which time Retz presented the check for the Roger Maris Cancer Center.

"Harmony was so happy when we took the picture with the big check, and she wanted to keep the check because she knew it was because of her mom," said Retz, who stuck the real $100 check in the mail Wednesday.

And just like that, this Detroit Lakes Girl Scout troop leader joined her little Daisies in getting an invaluable lesson in life.

"It's been a very eye-opening experience for me," said Retz. "It makes you realize that life is fragile — you never know what can change from day to day."

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