SAND LAKE — To say the Fleet family has been through the fire over the past few years would be an understatement.
Randy and Shawn Fleet of Sand Lake are the parents of six children, Jessa, 26, Erin, 23, Brittnay, 22, Dakota, 20, Randi, 16, and Storme, 14. The active family loves to play sports together and is a tight-knit clan.
Storme, the youngest of the Fleet family, began to struggle with school in the fourth and fifth grades. Typically a happy child, he began to have mysterious anger and frustration issues in the sixth grade. He began to lose his ability to walk and run in the seventh grade and school became increasingly difficult.
In September 2011, after an emergency room visit, Storme was diagnosed with metachromatic leukodystrophy (MLD), a genetic disorder that affects the body’s behavior, muscles, nerves and organs. MLD causes the body not to produce enough of a certain enzyme, causing a build-up of white matter in the brain, making it difficult for the brain to communicate with the body.
MLD eventually leads to blindness, difficulty eating, hearing loss, paralysis, seizures and death. There is no cure for MLD.
In November 2011, Storme was diagnosed with chronic thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease also known as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an inflammation of the thyroid resulting in reduced functioning. Symptoms include aches and pains, cold intolerance, decreased concentration, depression, fatigue, muscle cramps and swelling of the legs. It can also result in heart failure or a coma.
In December 2011, Storme was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, which causes high blood sugar levels when the pancreas fails to make insulin, meaning the body can’t use the sugar it needs for energy.
After this overwhelming slew of diagnosis, each day is precious for Storme and his family. Since there is no cure and the symptoms continually get worse, all the Fleet family can do is work on Storme’s quality of life.
“It’s just a very difficult situation for a 14-year-old to face,” summarized Shawn Fleet. “It’s been an extremely difficult situation, learning to adapt and learning to accommodate to Storme’s needs. It changes on a daily basis.”
One bright light during this dark time has been the staff and students of Tri County Area Schools, where Storme is a student. While he is currently unable to attend classes, he continues to study through Tri County’s homebound program. He has a wheelchair emblazoned with the school colors — black and gold — and is occasionally able to visit his classmates in school.
“There are no words to describe how much support and love and care Tri County Area Schools has provided to our family,” Shawn Fleet said. “The students have sent him cards and visited and been supportive. Tri County school staff have been extraordinarily helpful regarding Storme’s needs and they have been just wonderful to him. It’s really been a school effort.”
The district will continue to support the Fleet family with a special event next Friday. The third annual Tri County alumni basketball game will be Jan. 18 at Tri County High School. Tip-off for the women’s game is 5 p.m. with the men’s game starting 15 minutes after the women’s game ends. Alumni from 1965 through 1994 will play in the first and third quarters of each game, while alumni from 1995 through 2012 will play in the second and fourth quarters of each game.
Admission is $2 at the door for audience members or $10 per player, which includes a special T-shirt. All funds raised at the two games will go to the Fleet family to help pay medical bills.
The alumni games were started three years ago in an attempt to promote the district’s basketball program, according to boys varsity basketball coach Chad Gould and girls varsity basketball coach Wes Zerlaut.
Gould and Zerlaut were trying to decide whether having the event this year would be worth the effort, when they were approached by Brittnay Fleet, a former Tri County basketball player, to see if anything could be done to raise awareness about her brother’s situation.
With the assistance of Athletic Director Phil Butler, the group decided to move ahead with the game and to make it a fundraiser for something other than the school.
“We have a few goals for the event,” Gould said. “First and foremost is to help the Fleet family. Second is to show our kids that there is more to high school sports than just coming and competing. We want to show them that our programs are in a position to help people of our community and we should use that to our advantage. Lastly is to welcome our alumni back. It’s great when former players can be part of what you are building. We want to honor the roots of our program and invite our alumni to continue to be a part of it as we build it to a championship level.”
Zerlaut agreed, adding, “We have always tried to emphasize the importance of our basketball family at Tri County. What a great way to help someone within our family during their time of need.”
For more information about next Friday’s benefit basketball game, call the Tri County Area Schools office at (616) 636-5454.