When Jamie Pursley was in college, she cheered passionately for Kansas State, despised nearly everything about Kansas University and would never be caught for a second so much as thinking a positive thought about KU, the Jayhawks or Lawrence.
Today, a little more than six months after Jamie passed away, it’s her memory and kind heart that have inspired a group of her closest friends, both Wildcats and Jayhawks, to come together in an attempt to raise $100,000 to renovate 15 infusion rooms at Lawrence Memorial Hospital’s Oncology Center. The idea did not belong to her friends. It was Jamie’s wish, and that phrase now is the driving force behind the quest to honor her memory while sprucing up a part of the city she once viewed as a bitter rival.
“Two weeks before she died, she looked us dead in the eye and said this is what I want you to do,” said Kelli Alldredge, one of Jamie’s best friends. “A week after she passed, we got started. “There’s no rivalry when it comes to fighting cancer. We’re all on the same team.”
With the help of some notable members of both the KU and K-State communities, the fund-raising effort began a few months ago. From the beginning, this weekend’s KU-KSU football game in Lawrence was viewed as the centerpiece of their efforts because it will bring together two of Jamie's great loves — KSU and Lawrence.
Former KU wide receiver Harrison Hill and former KSU quarterback Jonathan Beasley are both heavily involved in the cause and have been instrumental in getting things rolling. Lawrence businessman, Miles Schnaer, owner of Crown Automotive, also is on the board and has the distinct honor of being known as the cause’s first official donor.
“What appeals to me with this is there are definite goals,” said Schnaer, a huge KU supporter. “They want to do something with the money they raise, they have a plan and it’s a heck of a plan.”
Originally from Topeka, Jamie was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006 while living out of state. After considering her options and hearing that the cancer had spread, she, her husband Aaron and their daughter Kayden decided to move closer to home, to Lawrence, to undergo chemotherapy treatment at LMH. Friends said the decision to relocate to Lawrence wasn’t easy for the die-hard Wildcat fan married to a man from Manhattan. But they also said it turned out to be one of the best moves she ever made.
That’s where the idea for Jamie’s Wish was born, several months after Jamie made the trek, day after day, to LMH’s Oncology Center for hours of treatment. Although LMH’s infusion rooms where Jamie’s chemo treatments were administered were and remain on par with those found at thousands of hospitals throughout the country, Jamie wanted them to be more. The equipment was a little outdated. The decor was sterile. The experience, for friends, family and patients, did not allow anyone to escape the fight they were facing.
“Their rooms are fine,” Hill said. “And they’re what you find at a lot of other hospitals. But they don’t make you feel peaceful and hopeful, and that’s what we’re trying to change. Because everyone deserves to have a place where they can fight with hope.”
When Alldredge and Aimee Jackson, the chairperson of the foundation, first approached LMH with the idea, hospital officials said they would be more than happy with whatever amount of money the group could raise. Alldredge and Jackson quickly informed them that they were looking to hit a home run and asked them what it would take to outfit all 15 rooms with the amenities of their dreams. The total came in at $100,000 — around $6,500 per room — and included plans to update the medical equipment, the artwork, the sitting areas for friends and family members and add flat-screen televisions iPads and iPod docking stations for each room.
“The more time I spend with the hospital, the more I want to raise the money,” Alldredge said. “My goal is to raise a little more than they said it would take, just so they don’t have to cut costs when it gets started. To tell you the truth, I don’t know that we’ll stop at LMH. We may do another hospital and just keep on going.”
About three months into its quest, Alldredge and an army of 20 or so of Jamie’s closest friends and family members are well on their way to achieving their goal. The web site — www.jamieswish.org — officially launched in mid-August. Since that time, more than $33,000 has been raised.
Some has come from private donations, big and small. And a lot of it came from an appeal to what these people were all about — the Sunflower Showdown.
"All these girls talk about is K-State," Schnaer said.
This weekend, when undefeated and 12th-ranked Kansas State comes to Lawrence to take on the 2-4 Jayhawks, nearly all of Section 22 at Memorial Stadium will be filled with people supporting Jamie’s Wish. They won’t be wearing red or blue. And they won’t be wearing purple. Instead, they’ll don bright pink shirts that read, “Gameday: Together for a common cause” on the front and “www.jamieswish.org” on the back.
Tickets and T-Shirts are still available. For $100, donors get a ticket to the game, which kicks off at 11 a.m., a shirt, access to a pregame tailgate tent and a postgame celebration at 23rd Street Brewery. All of the money will go toward the foundation. For those not interested in going to the game or for those who may already have a ticket, access to the pregame and postgame fun can be had for $30.
In addition, donations can be made on the Jamie’s Wish web site with a couple of clicks of the mouse. Every penny raised is tax deductible and will go directly to LMH, which is handling the financial side of the fund-raiser.
“I know people say this all the time, but every dollar does help,” Hill said. “Any amount.”
In the months that have passed since they lost one of their best friends, Alldredge, Jackson and dozens of others have poured their hearts and souls into the Jamie’s Wish cause. Part of the reason has been to raise money to help grant their friend’s final request and the other is to keep her memory alive. Alldredge said sharing Jamie’s story and working toward this cause has helped bring as many smiles as tears to the mourning process.
“People keep complimenting me, but I think I’m the one who’s blessed,” Alldredge said. “I get to see this out and see how it helps people. The entire Lawrence community has embraced us so much through all of this, and that’s exactly what they did for Jamie.”