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With bracelets that bind, St. Scholastica community shows support for cancer patient

College of St. Scholastica employees Trish Johnson (from left), Cathy Johnson and Rebecca Brenna are among the people active in the effort to raise money for co-worker Merissa Edwards — who is battling leukemia — through the sale of paracord bracelets. (Steve Kuchera / / 2
Trish Johnson added a charm reading “Believe” to the paracord bracelet she wears to support co-worker Merissa Edwards, who is battling leukemia. (Steve Kuchera / / 2

The St. Scholastica community has banded together, literally, to support Saints administrative assistant Merissa Edwards, who is undergoing treatment at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

Edwards is battling leukemia and to show their support, St. Scholastica student-athletes and faculty members are wearing orange paracord bracelets and taking to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to help spread the word about Edwards’ fight.

“She has been helpful for me personally in my athletic experience at St. Scholastica, which has been great,” men’s basketball player Andrew Laughlin said. “Any way I can show support in return for all she’s done, absolutely I’m going to take that.”

Laughlin, a junior guard and nursing major who graduated from Duluth Denfeld in 2012, said he first heard about Edwards’ battle with leukemia through members of the soccer team, and later saw the bracelets being promoted on Twitter.

Laughlin said any time there is someone at the school in need, he wants to be able to give back and show support. That’s especially true for those in the athletic department, and Edwards is a key part of the Saints’ family, he said. Some of Edwards’ duties include eligibility and compliance, meaning she is the go-to-person for many student-athletes such as Laughlin.

“She’s the assistant (athletic director) without the official assistant AD title; she does everything,” Laughlin said. “She is the one who is in the background making sure everything is going (right), the one who doesn’t get all the credit for making sure everything is going right. Everything goes right because of what she is doing.”

The handmade, woven orange bracelets made of parachute cord began in the university’s admissions department, where Edwards worked before moving to athletics.

Rebecca Brenna, St. Scholastica’s administrative assistant to the vice president of enrollment management, said when she and her co-workers heard of Edwards’ diagnosis, they wanted to not only do something to show their support, but raise money to help with Edwards’ medical costs. With the help of someone who knew how to make paracord bracelets and an order of parachute cord, a group of 10 sat down at lunch and made 100 bracelets to sell for $10 each.

Of the initial 100, only four remained as of Thursday. The group already ordered enough parachute cord to make 100 more.

“St. Scholastica is a community in every sense of the word,” Brenna said. “We expected a good response, but I’ve actually been moved to tears a couple of times when I’m counting up what we sold. It’s just amazing how people rally around people in this community, how we don’t let anyone go through anything alone.

“Merissa is that kind of person, which is why I think the outpouring is so great. If it was somebody else going through this, she would be doing the same.”

Maggie Dolan, a Saints women’s soccer player from 2010-13 who is now working on her doctorate in physical therapy at St. Scholastica, has helped spread the word about the paracord bracelets and Edwards’ fight through Twitter and Instagram. Dolan first met Edwards when she accompanied the soccer team to San Antonio for a recent NCAA Division III tournament. Edwards also did yoga and other fitness-related activities with the team.

Like Laughlin, Dolan said Edwards has been instrumental during her time on campus.

“She is one of the nicest ladies I’ve ever met,” Dolan said. “She’s always trying to do everything for everybody. She is a huge part of the athletic program in general and I always feel like she puts everybody else first.

“Scholastica as a whole is a close community that I think would do anything for anybody that is in need and that’s awesome. Seeing people do something for such a person that’s always given back for other people is awesome.”

To purchase a bracelet for $10, contact Brenna at

Matt Wellens

College hockey reporter for the Duluth News Tribune covering the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs men's and women's teams, as well as the NCAA Division III programs at St. Scholastica and Wisconsin-Superior.

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