Mayville_State_Comets_-_Night_for_Natalie-web.jpgPassion and drive for the game are evident in the 2014 Comets volleyball team when they’re on the court, and what they can do when they take that passion and drive off the volleyball court is inspiring, as evidenced in their Oct. 17, 2014 “A Night for Natalie,” which packed the MSU Lewy Lee Fieldhouse with more than 700 people, who watched the Comets in volleyball action versus conference rival the University of Jamestown and helped to raise $6,000 for a family in need.

While the team has participated in a variety of community service-based projects over the years, their biggest project played out this fall, when they came together to help raise funds for the family of little Natalie Jean Henke. Natalie, the daughter of former Mayville State volleyball coach Heidi Sunderland Henke and her husband, Brad Henke, was born June 7, 2012 with a congenital heart defect called hypo-plastic left heart syndrome. The left ventricle, which supplies blood to the entire body, was too small to meet the demand. Unfortunately, Natalie lost her fight to survive on this earth when she was called to heaven Oct. 2, 2014, as she waited for a heart transplant at Boston Children’s Hospital. She fought a courageous fight and was an inspiration to everyone she knew and those who followed her story.

Henke_family-web.jpgIn her short life, Natalie endured three open heart surgeries and 14 heart catheterizations. The original hope by doctors in Minneapolis and Boston was to help grow the left ventricle and avoid further surgeries and a possible heart transplant. These efforts eventually gave way to the need for a heart transplant, and she was listed for a heart transplant on April 17, 2014. The costs associated with Natalie’s medical needs were huge, and the Comets were there to help.

Fundraising began weeks before the big game. The members of the team took the initiative to get sponsorships from businesses in Mayville-Portland, as well as in their hometown communities. These funds helped to cover the cost of “Night for Natalie” T-shirts, which were sold as part of the fund-raiser. In addition, the Comets reached out through Facebook and received support from a number of Mayville State alumni and other North Dakota collegiate volleyball teams.

Planning for the event began much earlier, when their head coach, Lindsey Johnson, approached them about the opportunity to bring hope and support to the Henke family. They immediately embraced the idea and began designing a T-shirt, organizing a silent auction, and planning fund-raising activities.

“A Night for Natalie” was the culmination of a great team effort, and a time to remember a beautiful child who struggled to live and to support her parents at a time when they needed it most. The power and passion of this team of young women reached far beyond the volleyball court, and straight to the hearts of the Henkes.

Captions for above photos:

Top: Members of the Mayville State Comets volleyball team all wore “A Night for Natalie” T-shirts during their fund-raising event Oct. 17, 2014.    Pictured in the back row (l-r) are: assistant coach Michelle Warren, assistant coach Ashley Nelson, Stephany Wold, Kaitlyn Timian, Josette Glatt, Kyla Bugner, Karli Tompkins, Leighanna Helgoe, MacKenzie Einarson, Megan Ghinter, and head coach Lindsey Johnson. Middle row: Riley Francis, Paige O’Connor, Katie Kolness, Gretchen Freed, Bayley Thoren, Cassie Ziemer, and Katie Wangberg. Front row: Jordan Johnson, Remington Werner, Brooklyn Miller, Kayla Lundon, Kristin Reinowski, Sydney Boom, and Marlene Wester.

Bottom: Brad, Natalie, and Heidi Henke.