Mother and daughter use art to fundraise for Leukemia research
By Sage Larson
MGSH Staff Intern
Maple Grove resident Kelsey Arntson was diagnosed with Lymphocytic Leukemia (enlarged lymphoid tissues and lymphocytic cells in circulating blood) two weeks before her 7th birthday.
“It was the best kind to get if you have Leukemia,” Kelsey noted, “I was in remission two weeks after chemo, but I still had to do chemo for another year and a half.”
Kelsey was in chemo for 26 months. Once Kelsey was cancer free, her family threw her a huge party; 235 people came. Her mother, Rachel Arntson, hired a magician and the magician had Kelsey pour all her medicine into his hat and he made it all disappear.
“It was one of the happiest days in my life,” Rachel said with tears welling up in her eyes. She is a speech pathologist for the Osseo Area School District. She travels to different homes working with kids younger than 5 years old to help these future students with their disabilities.
Two years ago, Rachel got involved with Team in Training — an organization for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) that trains people to compete in marathons, centuries, duathlons, and triathlons to fundraise for research. She signed up for a duathlon, which is when one runs for three miles, bikes for 18 miles, and runs three more miles. The organization provides coaches for the people competing in the races. The coaches meet with the runners twice a week for four months. Instead of paying the coaches, they ask that each runner come up with an amount of money to donate to research by the time they compete in the race.
“I wanted to give back. My daughter is alive and it’s largely due to research from this program (LLS). I’ve wanted to do this for the past 15 years,” Rachel replied.
“I didn’t think my mom could do it,” Kelsey said, “it was fun to see her do it.”
Not only does she run and bike, she cross country skis. “I’m going to keep racing until I can’t anymore,” Rachel said.
From the three races she has done, Rachel has raised $7,000 and continues to raise more.
Running and skiing is not the only type of fund raising the women do. The Arntsons host mosaic parties. At the parties, anyone and everyone is invited to come and make mosaics. These mosaics can be tile pieces, vases, frames, platters, serving trays, stained glass windows; whatever one desires to make. Rachel supplies everything that one needs — the glass pieces, glue, cutters, grout, training and food. The supplies cost her around $500 for each party. Rachel doesn’t ask for reimbursement, she just leaves a bucket out for donations that go to the cause.
“It was my love for art combined with my love to work with people and desire to raise money that got these parties started,” Rachel said.
They have four parties a year; one over MEA weekend, one during District 279’s winter break, one over District 279’s spring break, and one in July.
“What’s so great about mosaics is that it’s simple enough for people to make,” Rachel said.
Kelsey added, “You don’t have to have any artistic ability to do it.”
The family also sends out postcards, has a website and bake caramel rolls to sell. The mosaic parties are their biggest fundraiser.
Kelsey has been cancer free for 15 years now. She’s a senior at North Dakota State University and will graduate in May with a Spanish major and a psychology minor. She plans to go to graduate school at Minnesota State University Moorhead. Her goal is to become a speech pathologist for Children’s Hospital, the hospital she attended when she had cancer.
On May 18, Rachel and Kelsey will be running in a half marathon in Fargo, N.D. In total, the mother and daughter need to raise $3,700. At the moment, they have raised a little more than $1,600. If anyone would like to donate, go to their website: pages.teamintraining.org/mn/frgomthn13/rarntson. Or if interested in attending one of the mosaic parties, email Rachel Arntson at firstname.lastname@example.org to get more information.
Kelsy said, “If you’re able to help people out, not just in monetary ways, go and visit kids at a hospital or volunteer.”
“If you’re fortunate and blessed, give back in some way. Set a goal for yourself and build a community of people, which is what my mosaic parties do. Get in shape, do something that is beyond yourself like giving back to others that are in a worse situation and help them feel better,” Rachel added.