A throng of screaming Dukes packed the McCormick Middle School gym Friday for the annual staff badminton tournament.
But most in the crowd wore T-shirts making it clear they were there “For Morgan.”
Morgan Lehmkuhl, a Wellington seventh-grader, was diagnosed Feb. 14 with stage four Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The badminton tournament served as a fundraiser for her as has the sale of T-shirts in the school district.
The 12-year-old has been unable to return to class since receiving the terrible news. She made it to Friday’s fun — smiling, laughing with friends, and taking a much-deserved breather from chemotherapy.
McCormick principal Nathan Baxendale presented Lehmkuhl with a bouquet of flowers amidst deafening cheers as the event began.
“I appreciate all of it,” Lehmkuhl said. “It’s great knowing everyone is here for me. From the time we found out what was going on there’s been so much love and support.”
Health concerns arose when Lehmkuhl began tiring quickly during basketball practices and experienced a sore throat as well as back pain.
After enduring a slew of medical tests, it was Dr. Saadia Hussain, a family practitioner in Wellington, who recommended a trip to Oberlin’s Mercy Health Allen Hospital for a CAT scan.
“I knew I wasn’t myself,” Lehmkuhl said. “I thought the sore throat and back could’ve been pulled muscles from basketball, but then the doctors found a bump in my neck. They looked at me and asked if we had known about this.”
“Right now, all I can do is try to keep my health and fight through this,” she said. “I’m happy to have come here today and we’re just going to keep doing what we can do.”
Her mother, Staci Lehmkuhl, thanked Hussain and home tutors like Wellington High School girls basketball coach Nathan Morris for helping Morgan and her family through trying times.
“Even people we don’t know have been so supportive,” she said. “We couldn’t be more thankful for Dr. Hussain. She saw what was going on and really stressed the urgency of us getting Morgan to Oberlin to be checked out.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.