There’s a saying, “Into each life a little rain must fall.” There’s another saying, “When it rains, it pours.” If this is true, then the Elmer and Char Athey family are in the midst of cloudburst. Their son Matthew was diagnosed with cancer in August 2018. Elmer has also been diagnosed with a rare type of brain tumor.
This Saturday, October 12, people from around the area are gathering at the Big Stone City School for a freewill spaghetti dinner (4-7 p.m.), auction, and dance (7-10 p.m.) to help offset the medical costs accrued by the Athey family. The auction has over 100 items including gift certificates, quilts, sports equipment, decor, household items, and themed baskets for men, women and children. Kids can romp on the inflatables from 1-6:30 p.m. The DJ for the dance (7-10 p.m.) plays Big Sounds for Little Towns, which seems appropriate, as everyone is from a small town somewhere.
Elmer grew up on a farm west of Clinton, Minnesota, and Charlotte (Tillman) grew up on a farm northeast of Ortonville. They have lived in Big Stone City since 1972.
Elmer worked for Dallas Hanson Construction for 20 years, and he and his brother owned Athey Brothers Construction. Elmer also had a tree moving and stump grinding business, and most recently has been employed at the Big Stone City School as a part-time custodian. Char also recently worked at the school, and, prior to that, she was the office manager for Valley Office Products and worked at Valley International and TriCounty State Bank (now CenBank). Elmer and Char attend St. Charles Catholic Church in Big Stone City. Matt, who lives in Milbank, attends and sings with the choir at St. Lawrence Church. He works at Hardee’s.
Matt, 36, is the youngest of five children. Sean and his wife, Lynette, live in Big Stone City. Cheryl (John) lives in Minneapolis, and Kristine (Jason) and Keith live in Sioux Falls.
Both Keith and Matthew were born with Fragile X syndrome (FXS). According to the National FXS Foundation, this genetic condition occurs more frequently in males, and causes intellectual disability and behavioral and learning challenges. There are usually no life-threatening health conditions associated with it.
For many years, Char and Elmer have been striving to make life better for those families challenged by a disability. Char was elected to the Big Stone City School Board, and was one of the founding members of the Grant-Roberts Developmental Disability Support Services. Elmer, Charlotte, and Matthew completed the Partners in Policymaking program at the state level. Char served as a member of the South Dakota Council on Developmental Disabilities, the South Dakota Family Support Council, and the Freedom to Work Project.
Now, they face an even bigger challenge. Matthew has already completed a year of in-patient chemo treatments in Sioux Falls for T-lymphoblastic leukemia lymphoma. He will continue monthly treatments for the next two years. Elmer underwent surgery last spring for his brain tumor, but because this type of cancer is rare, his treatment is still undetermined. In November, doctors will decide the course of action.
As it says in Ecclesiastes, “To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under the heaven…a time to mourn, and a time to dance…” This is the time to dance. Support the Athey family this Saturday.
Have an item to donate to the auction? Can’t make it to the event, but want to make a donation to the Athey family? Call Diane Stewart at 605.949.6909.
Schedule of Events:
Inflatables for the kids 1 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.
Spaghetti supper 4- 7 p.m.
Dance 7-10 p.m.