It’s been two short years since tragedy struck the Olson family of St. Michael. Michaela, 16, was on a jog one warm July morning when she struggled to breathe, and ultimately collapsed.
Emergency workers attempted to save her, and were able to transport her to a hospital. But it was too late. She died July 1, 2012.
Her parents are determined to keep Michaela’s memory alive. A bench has been placed along the path she jogged, just a few steps from Gutzwiller Park. And now in its second year, The Michaela Olson Ride and Dine brings people from everywhere together for a bit of fun, food and folly in her honor.
All while remembering the girl whose dream it was to play soccer, and who had a smile that could light up an entire neighborhood.
This year’s ride is set for Saturday, June 21 with a lunch and registration starting around 10 a.m. at Zylstra Harley Davidson in Elk River.
Riders will take off around noon, and hit spots in Long Lake and Becker before riding by the bench along Wright County 119 around 3:45 p.m. Saturday afternoon.
The ride will end at 4 p.m. at the St. Michael American Legion/Liberty Restaurant. But the fun will continue with a spaghetti dinner, auction and music.
The Olsons, DuWayne and Robin have also made it their mission to bring awareness to histoplasmosis, the rare reaction that caused Michaela’s death.
According to the Mayo Clinic, histoplasmosis is an infection caused by breathing in spores of a fungus often found in bird and bat droppings. Histoplasmosis is most commonly transmitted when these spores become airborne, often during cleanup or demolition projects.
It’s often misdiagnosed, with doctors thinking asthma or a vocal cord disfunction, such as the two diagnoses given to the Olson family, is the cause.
Soil contaminated by bird or bat droppings also can transmit histoplasmosis, so farmers and landscapers are at a higher risk of the disease. In the United States, histoplasmosis most commonly occurs in the Mississippi and Ohio river valleys.
A landscaping project in the neighborhood may have contributed to Michaela’s infection.
Michaela, who tried out for soccer at 14, was diagnosed with asthma after she had trouble playing. But her problems continued, so doctors thought she had a vocal chord dysfunction, after an asthma specialist determined she didn’t have the airway disorder.
Doctors, unfortunately, missed their mark, the Olson family said. An autopsy would later prove it was neither of those things.
Proceeds from the Ride and Dine help raise awareness, but also support something after Michaela’s own heart. Money is used to sponsor a young person in the community who wants to go on a mission trip.
Last year’s scholarship award winner, Amanda Teachout, used her gift to head to Haiti. She’ll be on hand at Zylstra Saturday morning to hand out information, show pictures and talk about her trip.
IF YOU GO
What: Michaela Olson Ride and Dine Memorial Ride
Where: Zylstra Harley Davidson, Elk River, ending at St. Michael American Legion
When: Registration begins around 10 a.m. Kickstands up at noon.
Why: To raise funds for a memorial scholarship given to students wishing to participate in Mission Trips.