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Strength in numbers

Humboldt's Ashlyn Clark isn't in this fight alone

—Messenger photo by Eric Pratt THE FORT DODGE, ST. EDMOND, MARSHALLTOWN AND HAMPTON-DUMONT SOFTBALL TEAMS pose together at home plate on Diamond 1 at Rogers Park in their ‘Team Clark’ shirts on Monday. The shirts are a fundraiser to help support Humboldt’s Ashlyn Clark, who was recently diagnosed with Stage 4 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

They wear green and white. Red and black. Red, white and blue.

Different schools. Different backgrounds. Different allegiances.

Yet on Monday, they were one in the same. Not Gaels, or Dodgers, or Marshalltown Bobcats, or Hampton-Dumont Bulldogs.

Nearly 100 high school players and coaches from the four softball programs at Rogers Park — along with all of their fans — were on Ashlyn Clark’s team that night, supporting the Humboldt senior in her cancer battle. Their colors blended together as one — wearing shirts in the hue of her fight, with “Team Clark” flanked by a blue ribbon on the front and her number 26 on the back.

Some FDSH and SEHS players are friends with Clark. Some are acquaintances; some are strangers. To Marshalltown and Hampton-Dumont, second-hand word of Clark’s diagnosis is the only real connection they have to her story.

And yet, Ashlyn’s road is a familiar one. This horrifying disease has darkened all of our families’ doors at one time or another. So when a fellow Iowan faces it, we become driven — and inspired — to help in our own way.

The struggle is both physically and mentally taxing. An emotional rollercoaster. It takes a village to defeat cancer.

St. Edmond junior Jocy Timmerman, who became inspired to host “Pack the Park for Ashlyn Clark,” recognized it immediately. So did Dan Adams — the husband of Dodger softball coach Andi Adams — who teamed with Chrissy Tjebben, Tammy Alstott, Christine Timmerman and others to handle the shirt orders (nearly 800 were sold). The local coaches — Adams, Mike Szalat, Nick Clark and Blake Utley — got involved. The kids did, too. The fans packed Rogers Park and McNeil Field, and unofficially, close to $4,000 had been raised toward Clark’s medical expenses as of Wednesday.

The Marshalltown community — ravaged by a tornado last July — knows a neighborly gesture under duress as much as anyone. Softball coach Jim Palmer made sure his program contributed to the cause despite having no direct ties to Clark or Humboldt. Hampton-Dumont followed suit.

Humboldt’s benefit night for Ashlyn is June 27. There will be games, food, family activities, shirts for sale and raffle items. In-state football celebrities will be signing autographs and playing slow-pitch softball.

The idea is to support Ashlyn and her family in as many different ways as possible for a fun-filled, light-hearted night away from the battle. But the goal will be similar to the message these teams were sending on Monday: to let a young woman who has been dealt a bad hand know she is loved and supported unconditionally.

And that she will never be alone in her fight.

Eric Pratt is Sports Editor at The Messenger. He may be reached by e-mail at sports@messengernews.net, or on Twitter @MessengerSports