Shelley Russets pull together and raise huge sum of money for family in need - East Idaho News

Shelley Russets pull together and raise huge sum of money for family in need

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SHELLEY — Shelley residents have proven it really is a great day to be a Russet. Ivana Nunez, 14, and her family were shocked and humbled when the small town showed their support through a massive fundraising effort.

Ivana is a student at Shelley High School, and she has been battling cancer for the past year.

“She is currently undergoing chemotherapy and radiation because of a relapsed cancer,” Ivana’s mother, Vivian Garcia-Nunez, told

Ivana was originally diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia when she was 21 months old. After several years of treatment, she was cancer free and remained that way for almost 10 years.

“Suddenly, things took a turn for the worse,” Garcia-Nunez remembered. Ivana began suffering from neurological issues. She began to have seizures, she said, and Ivana’s mental state was altered.

The cancer had infected Ivana’s spinal fluid and brain.

“The cancer also damaged the optic nerve so she lost most of her vision,” Garcia-Nunez said. “I can’t believe we made it through that first year. We drove Ivana to her doctor appointments [in Utah] once a week.”

Ivana’s classmates were aware of her medical struggles. They decided they were going to help out.

It all started with the Mr. Russett Pageant.

“We wanted to take that venue and use it for something good,” Ray Miller, a teacher at Shelley High School, told He was in charge of organizing the event.

The school’s clubs and teams each nominated a family from the community they felt could use some financial help. Ivana’s family was nominated and then chosen.

“When we found out our family had been nominated, we were surprised,” Garcia-Nunez said. “Even though Mr. Miller had told us that our family had been nominated, we never imagined it would be us that would be chosen.”

Fully invested, the students began their fundraising efforts. Their goal, said Miller, was to raise $4,000-$5,000. They would present their earnings at the Mr. Russet Pageant.

Some clubs sold t-shirts and hoodies while another organized a silent auction. The band held a benefit concert. One club was especially creative with what they called “Smoothy Apocalypse”; the more money they earned, the more ingredients they added to a smoothie. Then, a teacher had to drink the concoction.

The community loved being able to help out, according to Miller. A coin drive was held district-wide, he said, and there was a movie night in the high school gym for local families.

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Ivana Nunez (center) and her family were given over $22,000. | Courtesy Shelley High School

The Nunez family was presented with a check for $22,530 at the Mr. Russett Pageant on March 17.

It was a humbling moment.

“I was in shock, I felt like I wanted to hug every student, every person that was there,” Garcia-Nunez said. “We are blessed to live in such a wonderful community. Our little town of Shelley has shown up for us, making us feel like we are not alone. They’re in this with us, supporting us.”

Garcia-Nunez continued, “We would like to thank everyone that helped with the fundraiser. Thank each one of you for your time and effort. A special thanks to Mr. Ray Miller and his wife for putting it together.”

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Ivana loves spending time with her support dog Annie. | Courtesy Vivian Garcia-Nunez

Ivana returned to school in January. She loves to spend time with her support dog, Annie. They no longer have to drive to Utah every week for appointments — all her treatment is in Idaho now. She is optimistic about her future, according to her mom.

“She is always very positive and has aspirations to go to college to someday become a nurse,” she said. The entire family, in fact, is moving forward with Ivana and “with much hope.”