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A NIGHT FOR ASHLYN

Clark fundrasier bringing big names to Humboldt in June

Submitted photo Ashlyn Clark, a recently-graduated senior at Humboldt High School, was diagnosed with Stage 4 Hodgkin’s lymphoma earlier this month.

HUMBOLDT — The Humboldt softball team carried the look of a championship contender into the 2019 campaign.

Now that the season has arrived, the Wildcats appear to be as good as advertised: No. 2 ranking in Class 3A, undefeated record, the vast majority of their players back from a successful run to Rogers Park and the state softball tournament a year ago.

One player is noticeably absent from the lineup, though. Senior. Right fielder. Team leader. No. 26.

Without Ashlyn Clark, Humboldt is still a legitimate threat to win it all — and head coach Doug Van Pelt’s squad very well could. But without Ashlyn Clark, the Wildcats also have an entirely different understanding of what matters most both on and off the field at the end of the day.

Clark, the daughter of Humboldt’s Derrik and Kristi Clark, was diagnosed with Stage 4 Hodgkin’s lymphoma earlier this month. The news sent shockwaves through the Humboldt community just weeks before Clark’s final season as a Wildcat was supposed to begin.

“It obviously put things into perspective in a hurry,” Van Pelt said. “We’ve been given a great gift, and student-athletes shouldn’t take that gift for granted. We talk about it every single day — Ashlyn may not be playing with us physically, but she still is a part of our team emotionally and we have to do what it takes to play for her and do what we do best in honor of her.”

Her teammates and coaches instantly rallied to Ashlyn’s side, and their neighbors are quickly following suit. On June 27, the program will host “Ashlyn’s Night at the Ballpark” — a benefit to support Clark’s battle with cancer at the Humboldt High School softball diamond. The highlight of the evening will be a celebrity slowpitch softball game between Iowa State and Iowa, with well-known special guest Cyclones Joel Lanning, Ben Bruns, Lane Danielsen, Greg Schoon and a host of others going up against former Hawkeye football greats Chad Greenway, Brad Banks, Kyle McCann, Bruce Nelson, Tyler Nielsen and more.

“We’re a community that supports each other,” Van Pelt said. “The outpouring of people who want to help Ashlyn and her family has been inspiring, and this will be one of the many opportunities to do that. We just want to point them in the right direction and be there for the Clark family. We’re hoping the event is a big success, and that Ashlyn can really enjoy it.

“They’re going through a lot, both emotionally and financially. We’re taking the initiative to pull together and do our part, because that’s what Wildcats do.”

Ellie Jacobson, a junior all-state pitcher at Humboldt, said the fundraiser is the least the team can do for a teammate and sister in need.

“Last year I knew Ashlyn had our team’s back and made every play for us in right field,” Jacobson said. “This year, it’s our turn to step up and make a play for her and help her when she needs some support.

“We all know Ashlyn is an important part of our team. We wish she was there each night helping us battle the opponent, but right now she has other more important issues to address. We support her in whatever she needs and each night each player wears a wrist band and a purple hair tie symbolizing our support for her.”

Junior Mady Lange, the Wildcats’ catcher, acknowledged Clark’s diagnosis was a “tough concept to swallow” at first.

“When you spend every night together in the summer, you become a family,” Lange said. “The team rallies behind her because she would do the same for any of us. Humboldt softball is very supported by our community, and Humboldt is a close-knit community. The support for Ashlyn and her family has been enormous.

“Coach VanPelt has told us we are lucky enough to play this game because many people are not able to, like Ashlyn (now). The whole team has this in the back of our minds while we are playing. We wear sweatbands with Ashlyn’s number on our wrists and purple bows in our hair for her. We play for her every night because she is not able to. Everything we do this season will be for Ashlyn. Softball matters so little when something like this happens. We are doing our part by supporting our teammate and her family in every way we can.”

Van Pelt called Clark — an Iowa Central Community College volleyball recruit — “exactly the type of leader schools our size all hope to have.”

“She’s a four-sport athlete who has been involved in everything,” Van Pelt said. “A true role model. We’ve been lucky enough to have players come through our program who play other sports as well and are also active in the community that younger kids can look up to. Ashlyn’s always been that.”

A number of family activities are scheduled to precede the 7 p.m. slow-pitch game, including a meal and concessions, a dunk tank, an autograph session and home-run derby. All of the proceeds will go directly to Ashlyn’s family.

Donations may also be made to the Ashlyn Clark Fund at First State Bank in Humboldt, or through a Go Fund Me page located on-line at www.gf.me/u/szvmqm.