ROCKWELL | Eastyn Petersen has been friends with Emersyn Brown for as long as she can remember.
So when Eastyn, 11, learned earlier this month that Emersyn, 10, had been diagnosed with leukemia, she was devastated.
"She was pretty bummed about it to say the least," said Aaron Petersen, Eastyn's dad. "She cried for days and days."
Eastyn and Emersyn are two active fifth-graders at West Fork Elementary School in Rockwell — they each play soccer, basketball, and swim at the local pool, among other activities.
As the community has learned of Emersyn's diagnosis, the support on social media and throughout Rockwell has been overwhelming, according to Teri Peterson, Eastyn's mother.
That belief was shared by Kelly Patterson, Emersyn's mother. Patterson said her and her family are extremely grateful for the support from the local community, school district, churches and friends.
Students at West Fork Elementary are continuing to collect donations for Emersyn, and a benefit has been scheduled 4 to 7 p.m. April 7 at Sacred Heart Catholic Church's parish hall. A silent auction, live auction and bake sale will be held to raise money for Emersyn's treatment. She is currently at St. Marys in Rochester, Minnesota.
Eastyn — who praised her friend's honesty and respect for others — said it's vital that this support continues.
"It’s really important because I really just want to play with her this summer and have fun with her," Eastyn said.
She's already taken some major steps herself in support of her longtime friend, selling bracelets to raise money for the benefit and wearing orange for leukemia awareness. Teri and Eastyn travel up to Rochester once a week to visit Emersyn, and Eastyn decided that like her friend, she would have her head shaved.
"It wasn’t even a question, she had to do it," Teri Petersen said with a laugh, about her daughter getting her head shaved. "I had no say in it, my husband had no say in it."
Both Aaron and Teri Petersen said Emersyn is like another daughter to them, and that her energy and positive attitude has helped them to cope since she was diagnosed.
"She’s just a fun-loving kid," Teri said. "She just wants to have fun all the time … and she’s just a sweet genuine girl that comes from great family."
Aaron said they try to make the trip up to Rochester as much as they can, so Eastyn and Emersyn can share a few laughs and catch up.
"I always say laughter’s the best medicine," he said. "I think Eastyn needs the visits just as bad as Emersyn does … Eastyn’s bummed out pretty much all week until the end, when she gets to go up and visit Emersyn."
Tracy Peterson, West Fork's second through eighth-grade principal at the district's Rockwell campus, said she and others were stunned when they heard about Emersyn's diagnosis.
But students, teachers and other school officials continue to rally behind her, she added — while the 10-year-old continues her fight against cancer.
"You never know who or what cancer is going to touch," Tracy Peterson said. "If there’s anybody that can battle it, it’s definitely her."
Patterson said her daughter's upbeat attitude since she was diagnosed has helped her family immensely.
"If you believe something and have positive energy, I do think it makes a difference," Patterson said. "Just seeing her have that positive energy flows out to all of us."
Those interested in donating to Emersyn's family can contact Kristin Zimmerman at 641-512-2135 or Abbie Nielsen at 641-420-7194. A GoFundMe page has also been set up. Find it by searching for "Emersyn Brown" on the website.
OSAGE | The Mitchell County sheriff is asking the owner of a white pickup truck pictured in surveillance footage to come forward with information on vandalism to a county-owned cabin earlier this month.
Mitchell County Sheriff Greg Beaver on Friday reported the vehicle was in his department's possession. A photo of the truck was released Tuesday.
"The vehicle was recovered on Wednesday afternoon in Stacyville," Beaver said. "We are continuing to ask for the public to come forward with information.
"My office is aware of a witness in this matter, and we are asking for this person to come forward and talk with us."
Mitchell County conservation officials on March 13 discovered damage to the Pinicon Alders cabin, outhouse and several signs around the site, which is located northwest of Osage.
Vandals damaged the handicap-accessible ramp leading up to the cabin and smashed in the front of the outhouse, partially collapsing it.
Damage was done to a wall and support beams, knocking the cabin partially off a footing on one side.
The cabin, which was constructed in 2014, cannot be rented until it is repaired. The conservation department is waiting on a damage estimate from insurance adjusters and is unsure how long it will be out of use.
This is the first significant vandalism incident at the site, and county supervisors have expressed a desire to install surveillance cameras at the cabin in the future.
Rewards totaling $6,000 are being offered by the Mitchell County Conservation Board and Mitchell County Board of Supervisors for information leading to an arrest.
Anyone with any information on the vandalism is encouraged to contact the Mitchell County Sheriff's Office at 641-732-4740. Tips can be given anonymously.
The Iowa Department of Public Health on Tuesday approved five medical marijuana dispensaries statewide.
MedPharm Iowa LLC was granted two of the five state licenses in Sioux City and Windsor Heights. Iowa Cannabis Co. Inc. received approval for a dispensary in Waterloo and Have a Heart Compassion Care was approved for licenses in Council Bluffs and Davenport.
The companies have until 9 a.m. Wednesday to accept the licenses.
"We are thrilled that the Iowa Department of Public Health selected MedPharm Iowa to operate dispensaries in Sioux City and Windsor Heights," Dr. Chris Nelson, owner of MedPharm Iowa, said in a news release. "We are also eager to work with the state’s other dispensaries to assist those dealing with chronic pain, cancer and debilitating diseases and help alleviate the opioid epidemic in Iowa."
Nelson is also president and CEO of Kemin Industries, a global ingredient company headquartered in Des Moines, that serves as the lead consultant to MedPharm Iowa.
MedPharm Iowa also holds the sole medical cannabidiol manufacturing license with the state and must begin manufacturing products at its Des Moines facility by Dec. 1.
The dispensaries will be locations where patients and primary caregivers with valid medical cannabidiol registration cards can obtain cannabidiol. Products are expected to include oils, topical creams, inhalers and suppositories.
The state received a total of 20 applications from six manufacturers to open dispensaries, according to the state's news release.
The state does not intend to grant licenses to the others unless one of the five approved dispensaries does not accept.
Cannabidiol is a chemical found in cannabis plants that is used for products that help treat medical conditions. Medical cannabis cannot contain more than 3 percent of THC, which is the element in marijuana that produces a high.
The Iowa Department of Public Health requested the proposals from companies under Iowa's expanded medical marijuana law signed last year.
State lawmakers, with the support of Gov. Terry Branstad, approved legislation in 2017 expanding access to cannabis oil for patients diagnosed with a short list of diseases or with terminal illnesses causing untreatable pain.
As of early March, a combined seven patients and caregivers in Woodbury County possessed active registration cards to purchase cannabidiol, according to the Iowa Department of Transportation, which issues the cards. That was tied with Warren County for ninth-highest in the state.
The state in early March reported 289 active cardholders statewide, with the highest concentrations in Polk (44), Scott (23), Linn (22) and Black Hawk (17), according to the DOT.