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Parkston banding together for Tara Bainbridge

PARKSTON -- As Tara Bainbridge and her husband, Neal, walked into Boogs & Co. on Saturday afternoon, they stopped to take it all in. Wearing a surgical mask, Tara made a brief appearance at a benefit in Parkston in her honor, and what the Bai...

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Attendees of a benefit for Tara Bainbridge eat a supper for a free will offering on Saturday at Boogs & Co. in Parkston. Bainbridge has stage four non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. (Caitlynn Peetz/Republic)

PARKSTON - As Tara Bainbridge and her husband, Neal, walked into Boogs & Co. on Saturday afternoon, they stopped to take it all in.

Wearing a surgical mask, Tara made a brief appearance at a benefit in Parkston in her honor, and what the Bainbridges saw - people wall to wall showing their support - was overwhelming.

"You hear it all the time, that it's great to be from a small town, but once you go through something like this, you really realize that it's true," Neal said. "The outpouring of support kind of makes a person feel like they've been inadequate leading up to this point, trying to help other people.

On what was supposed to be one of the happiest days of her life, Tara went to the hospital to have a cesarean section performed and welcome her youngest child into the world on June 23. Greta was born without issue, but doctors found a mass on Tara's ovary, later determined to be stage four non-Hodgkin's lymphoma - a cancer that starts in white blood cells called lymphocytes, which are part of the body's immune system, according to the American Cancer Society.

If Greta hadn't been born via C-section, it's likely the doctors wouldn't have found the cancer until much later, making treatment more difficult.

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But treatment has been difficult.

Tara travels to Sioux Falls for treatments, where she stays for eight days at a time, then returns home for three weeks. Sometimes she's able to handle the medicines well, but other times it makes her very ill, according to friend Cassie Gerlach. In January, she will have a stem cell transplant, which will hopefully end her treatments, Gerlach said.

So Gerlach and a group of Tara's friends decided to put together a benefit to help raise Tara's spirits and money to defray medical expenses.

"We knew we wanted to do something," Gerlach said. "Tara is so great, and it's such a good family, we just felt like we had to."

Gerlach said the group began planning shortly after Tara was diagnosed, and the benefit held on Saturday featured a bean bag tournament and dinner for a free will offering. There was also a raffle for signed Vikings memorabilia, VIP tickets to a Vikings game and more. It was unclear as of Sunday how much had been raised.

"People are so generous," Gerlach said. "We love that we live in a small town where everybody joins together when times get tough and we are among the best people there are."

Tara grew up in Parkston, and Neal in Ethan, and the couple now lives near Ethan, and Neal said the support of both communities has been instrumental in Tara's recovery.

From helping to take care of the three children and the couple's farm, to anyone who has said a prayer or sent positive messages, Neal said there aren't enough "thank-yous" to go around.

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"Our biggest thing is just to say, 'Thank you,' to as many people as we can, but you always miss somebody," he said. "Everything everyone has done for us is appreciated. We feel very lucky."

Related Topics: PARKSTONETHAN
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