Editor's Note: Between errands, your job and taking your kids to dance class, we know the work week can be a busy time. Keeping that in mind, we're giving you this second look at a story we ran earlier this week to make sure you don't miss it.
When Sara Tourte found out what the community of Ankeny was doing to come together and help her brother, there were no words she could use to sum up her feelings.
“I can’t describe what this means to us,” Sara said. “It’s phenomenal to see how much everyone is coming together in support of my brother.”
“He’s always been special to me, but to see how special he is to other people is really remarkable,” she said.
A chili supper fundraiser will be held tonight from 4:30-8 p.m. at in conjunction with the Ankeny/Johnston boys' and girls' varsity basketball game. All proceeds will benefit the family of 16-year-old Joe Tourte, an Ankeny High School student who is hospitalized in Iowa City in need of a heart transplant.
The event is being organized by the Heart For Joe Committee and has received support from numerous Ankeny residents and businesses.
Joe was recently diagnosed with an undetected heart condition following a visit to the doctor last year. On Nov. 15, Joe went in for an endoscopy to determine what was making him ill.
During a chest x-ray, doctors discovered Joe had an enlarged heart, as well as congestive heart failure. He was airlifted from Des Moines to the pediatric intensive care unit at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.
Once he was taken to UIHC, doctors determined Joe would need a heart transplant.
Since Joe was first taken to the hospital, his sister said his condition has been like a “roller coaster ride”.
“We take five steps forward and three steps back,” she said. “He is holding stable for now, but we’ve had some scary days.”
Joe currently is not on the transplant list because his doctors want to see his health improve to ensure he can undergo the transplant surgery. Right now, Sara said, Joe’s blood pressure is too high and his lungs are “extremely sick.”
“A lot of it is just ‘hurry up and wait’,” Sara said. “Right now, he has a heart pump and with that in, they’re not on a hurry to put him on the list until he gets better.”
Joe’s mother, Libby, works as an associate for Ankeny schools. When Libby’s coworkers, including fellow associate Vicki Murken, went to visit Joe in the hospital, they knew they had to do something to help the family.
“The next day we started planning,” Murken said. “All the associates here care for each other and we look out for one another. We wanted to help.”
The Heart for Joe Committee was formed and members started planning the chili fundraiser. Murken said committee members talked about many different fundraising ideas but settled on chili because it was perfect for the winter season and easy to make.
The suggested donation for the fundraiser is $5 for adults and $3 kids, but any amount over the required will be accepted. In addition to chili, cookies and beverages will be served. T-shirts and wristbands showing support for Joe also will be sold at the event.
All money raised will go to the Tourte family to help with their expenses.
Murken said the support she’s received from local businesses and individuals has been phenomenal. Ankeny businesses that have donated to the committee include , , , , , and Wee’s Tees.
Ankeny residents also have been amazing, Murken said.
“I think any time there is a tragedy like this that happens, the community needs to draw together and support families,” Murken said.
Murken also said she’s confident the event will be “perfect” and is expecting a huge crowd.
“I can hardly wait,” she said. “It’s going to come off so smooth, and I know everything will play out.”
Meanwhile, in Iowa City, Sara said once everything is done, she and her family want to meet every person who has been on this journey with them.
“We just couldn’t do it without the support they’ve given, it’s just a simple reminder to keep the faith,” Sara said. “They are what helps us stay strong for Joe.”