Kelsey’s legacy: Foundation helps families fighting cancer nearly a decade after teen’s death

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PLEASANT HILL, Iowa — It’s the Southeast Polk cheer squad’s job to fire up the fans, but these young women have a more important mission on their minds this week.

“We’re getting people in the community to buy our t-shirts to help our cancer families around Southeast Polk,” explains Cadence Zeutenhorst.

Head Coach Marci Keesee says her team impresses her every day. “Just that spirit of generosity and knowing at any time it could be them that needs it,” she says, “they want to be able to help others when they can.”

Cadence lost her grandma to cancer a few years ago and Sadie Ferrell says she can relate because her mom recently recovered from breast cancer.

This particular practice is special because they get to meet the family behind the original fundraiser. It started in 2011 with Steve Michelsen’s daughter, Kelsey. She was a sophomore at Southeast Polk and diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. “I commend you,” Steve tells the team, “what you’re doing by putting others before yourselves is amazing.”  Marci explains that all of the money the girls raise goes straight into the community.  They don’t keep anything for the cheer fund or the parent group.

“She made a huge impact,” Steve says about his daughter, “not only how she lived, but how she died, and how she fought. That was Kelsey all the way.”

And in many ways – she’s still here. Her legacy is the “Team Kelsey Foundation” her family created just weeks after her death in 2012.  “We want to help those families because we know exactly what they’re going through,” Steve explains, “because when your child is terminally sick, life goes on. You still have a car payment, you have bills, you have special needs…that’s where we come in.”

And you can see her spirit in the girls carrying on the “fight cancer” mission a decade later. “It always comes back to Kelsey so she is never forgotten.”

If you’d like to purchase a shirt from the Southeast Polk Cheer Squad, visit this website: www.sepgear.com

If you’d like to donate to the Team Kelsey Foundation, visit this website: www.teamkelseyfoundation.org/tfk

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