PERU - When Danyell Dousharm thinks about her daughter, Nichelle, she remembers her as "an upbeat child" who was "always enjoying life."
"She was my tomboy. It was very seldom I could get her in a dress," recalled Dousharm.
She and her husband, Bryan, suffered a devastating loss when Nichelle unexpectedly passed away April 24. It was earlier that week when Nichelle developed a high-grade fever, which her mother treated at home with Tylenol and a cool bath. After a few days, the fever wasn't letting up, said Dousharm, leading her to bring Nichelle to the hospital.
However, tests were inconclusive. Nichelle's stomach was enlarged but conditions such as urinary tract and kidney infections were ruled out, said Dousharm.
"We couldn't figure out what was causing the fever," said Dousharm.
Nichelle was put on medication that was believed would correct the problem, said her mother, but the Dousharms soon found themselves back in the hospital a day later.
"Her stomach was even bigger than before," said Dousharm.
Ultimately, Nichelle was sent to Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington, Vt., where she was put through a battery of tests and X-rays.
"We went from her being okay, to being admitted into the hospital to having to go to Vermont," said Dousharm.
Nichelle's parents met with her following a colonoscopy she had to undergo, and, initially, Nichelle seemed fine, said her mother.
"We asked her if she was okay and she just said she was cold. The next thing we know, we were getting shipped out of the room because she crashed," said Dousharm.
The exact cause of Nichelle's death is still a mystery to the Dousharms at this point, as they await results of a full autopsy. It hasn't been easy for the family, living with the uncertainty. Yet, they manage.
"We've been taking it one day at a time, remembering all the happy times we had with her," said Dousharm.
When Amanda Desotell heard about Nichelle's death, she wanted to help. As a member of the Rand Hill Ridge Runners Motorcycle Club, she was looking for a local cause for the club to support, and said she was compelled to offer whatever help the club could give.
"We just wanted to do something," said Desotell, who reached out to Nichelle's parents.
The Dousharms were receptive to the idea of hosting an event in Nichelle's memory, making sure it was more of a celebration of her life rather than a mourning of her death. With that, the Family Fun Day and Bike Run in Memory of Nichelle Dousharm was born.
The event, scheduled for this Saturday, July 10, will consist of a motorcycle ride starting at Glenwood Plaza on State Route 22 and a carnival at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 309 on State Route 22B. The 75-mile ride, which will end at the VFW post, will begin with registration at 10 a.m. and the ride to follow at 11 a.m. The Family Fun Day portion, which will include face painting, a dunking booth, bouncy house and temporary tattoos for kids, will be held at the VFW from 12-4 p.m.
"Nichelle would have loved this," Dousharm said of the event. "It sounds like it's going to be really fun."
Desotell said she liked the idea of making the event family-friendly as Nichelle also left behind two younger brothers, Tyler and Jayden.
"We wanted to make sure this was something she would enjoy and they would enjoy," said Desotell. "It's pretty much going to be something where you can bring your kids and have fun."
The Family Fun Day will also include 50/50 drawings, a Chinese auction and raffles. Proceeds will help the Dousharm family with Nichelle's medical expenses. Music will be provided by TNT Entertainment.
"I never knew Nichelle at all, but from what I've gotten to know about her by handing out donation flyers and talking to people at the school, she had to have been the sweetest little thing on the face of this earth," said Desotell. "We're hoping we have a big turnout."
For more information about this Saturday's event, contact Desotell at 335-6646 or co-organizer Brandy Duval at 335-2206.