They thought she had the flu.
In late October of last year, skin-cancer survivor Mindy Dunn began complaining of headaches to her husband, Rev. Dr. Jim Dunn.
It was rare, Jim would say later, for Mindy to complain about anything.
For two straight days, Mindy was in immense pain but refused to be taken to the hospital. Not again. She was sick of hospitals. She was sick of being sick.
On the third day, however, the headaches still hadn’t faded, and Jim was able to convince Mindy that the hospital was no longer an option; it was a necessity.
Initially, Mindy’s doctors also though she had the flu. That is, until they conducted a CT scan.
It was then that Mindy’s doctor asked Jim if his wife had brain cancer.
“No,” he said. “She has skin cancer. Why?”
The doctor told Jim that Mindy had lesions all over her brain.
“How many?” Jim asked.
Too many to count, they told him.
Four days later, she was gone.
After more than a 2-year battle, the loving mother of two and devoted wife of 23 years finally had succumbed to cancer.
More than 1,100 people came to her wake to mourn the loss of their neighbor and friend. More than 700 attended the funeral to pay their respects.
For Mindy’s husband, it was a touching outpouring of love from their community and an accurate reflection of the number of lives his wife had positively affected.
Mindy had spent many years as an early-intervention social worker in the Indianapolis area and as volunteer president of the Greenfield Area Soccer Club, which provided an avenue for local youth to play soccer.
“It was amazing,” Jim said of the people attending his wife’s services. “I’ve been in this community for a long time, and I’ve never seen anything like it. She was an amazing woman.”
An amazing woman, who even after her death, would inspire others to service.
A short time after Mindy’s passing, Courtney, Mindy’s daughter, texted Greenfield-Central soccer coach Erin Clark.
“If we do one thing next year, can we have a cancer game?”
The G-C goalkeeper and team captain wanted the Cougars to play a game that would raise money and awareness about the disease that claimed her mother’s life.
Clark immediately responded yes.
But the next morning, Clark had a better idea. She messaged Courtney: “How about we make it a tournament?”
A short 10 months later, the Cougars will host G-C Kicking for Cancer, a four-team tournament to be played Sept. 6 beginning at 2 p.m., with a ceremony honoring those who have survived cancer and those who have died because of it.
For Courtney, the passing of her mother was an unfortunate reminder of a missed opportunity.
“I realized we didn’t do a game that benefited cancer last year,” Courtney said. “We had done them before, but it was just wear some pink socks, and kick the pink ball, or whatever.”
What she wanted to do was something more, something worthy of her mother’s legacy.
“She wanted to offer hope and encouragement to those who battle cancer, even if it’s just for a day,” Courtney’s father Jim said. “When a young adult sees someone they love suffer like that, it makes the emphasis on a game or tournament to support cancer research and treatment that much more integral.”
So Courtney, Clark and then-athletics director Kevin Horrigan took it upon themselves to re-establish a G-C soccer benefit event.
It did not take long. Weeks after the idea’s conception, a date and times were set. Teams were contacted and accepted into the tournament, and Courtney began planning the intricacies of the event.
It would not just be pink socks and a pink ball.
Courtney and her Cougars teammates have made plans to honor the cancer survivors who attend the tournament with flowers and to remember those who have passed by releasing black balloons into the sky.
T-shirts and luminaries also will be sold at the tournament, with 100 percent of proceeds being donated to the American Cancer Society.
Courtney also plans of giving a speech, in which she intends to outline the importance of supporting those who deal with cancer daily as well as providing another important message: Millions of people have stories like that of her family.
“This is for everyone,” she said. “I thought of doing this because of my mother, but the focus should not be on me or my family. So many people have gone through this in their lives. And this tournament is about helping them and their families.”
In the weeks leading up to the tournament, Courtney has discovered how aptly her leadership and this event will honor her mother.
Courtney realized the fusion of a soccer tournament and a community service event makes the event a perfect tribute for Mindy.
“She was always volunteering,” Courtney said. “She loved her community. And she was always very supportive of my brother (2012 G-C grad Caleb) and my soccer careers. So I’m glad I was able to help plan this. I know I represent her in everything I do. I just want to show that same love and compassion she showed others.”
Courtney also knows, though, that this year’s tournament, while a great start, is not enough.
A senior who plans to attend Indiana Wesleyan next fall to study physical therapy, Courtney doesn’t want the tournament to end after she graduates.
Her hope is that a larger, more competitive tournament would draw more attention to the event’s true purpose.
“Everyone is affected by cancer in some way,” Courtney said. “This tournament is about showing people with cancer and their families they aren’t alone. We want to show them that we’re all battling together.”