CHARACTER COUNTS

Red Mountain’s Jaimie Rusnak uses sewing as a way to give back

Oct 11, 2022, 5:30 AM

(Red Mountain High School/Facebook)...

(Red Mountain High School/Facebook)

(Red Mountain High School/Facebook)

In the classroom, or playing sports, Jaimie Rusnak is the ideal student. She has a 4.0 grade point average, received state honors for her performance on the field — winning the 6A region offensive player of the year and first team awards for soccer — and has played different sports from swimming to basketball and beach volleyball.

But behind all her success as a role model for the Mountain Lions, Rusnak has had plenty of adversity to fight through.

When Rusnak was 6 years old, her sister, Brittani, was diagnosed with Transverse Myelitis, a spinal cord disease that can cause sensory problems and weakness in a person’s legs.

Over the first couple of years, it was difficult for Rusnak to see her sister on a consistent basis. Visits to the hospital were constant for her sister and would last multiple days to weeks at a time. Being so young made it difficult for Rusnak to see her sister in the hospital so she had to make the most of every moment they had.

“I learned to take the time that we had and really do something with it,” Rusnak said. “If she wasn’t feeling good, I’d sit with her and watch the Kardashians or whatever was on TV. I just tried to spend as much time with her and value the time we had.”

At the age of 8, Rusnak was dealt another difficult card: her mother, Linda, was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“That was probably one of the hardest things I’ve gone through,” Rusnak said. “I really wanted her to be at all my sports events and drive me to school.”

Rusnak’s mother also wanted to be at every possible game to be her daughter’s number one fan.

“It was always about the kids,” Rusnak’s mother said. “In my mind, I always knew I was going to beat it. I was going to live. My goal was not to miss their activities but I had to because of my immune system.”

Those two pivotal members of Rusnak’s family were not always available to watch every event or game that she played in, but her mother ensured that she had family and friends who could give her the support the children needed.

“They all attended our kids’ games when I couldn’t,” Rusnak’s mother said. “My husband would go and someone would come and sit with me at home so he could be there. We are so appreciative of the support that we had.”

Now in her senior year at Red Mountain, Jaimie Rusnak has the ability to give back all the years of love and support she received. She’s done so with one of her favorite interests: Sewing.

Rusnak’s aunt gifted her a sewing machine for her 12th birthday and created a simple pillowcase. It sparked a love and initiative in her to continue sewing different types of items over the years.

Rusnak’s ability to sew has been used to benefit others as well. For a community service project, she decided to give back to the local hospitals by sewing and delivering more than 300 blankets.

“The social workers are always so shocked each time and they ask ‘You did this yourself?'” Rusnak’s mother said. “Her friends are all shocked too. She doesn’t like to share that she sews and then they see it and are amazed and tell her she’s so talented.”

When COVID-19 hit, Rusnak was also prepared to step up and deliver help. A family friend who works on the Navajo reservation informed her of the struggles the community was dealing with, including a lack of masks. After watching a video online of how to sew a mask, Rusnak would go on to sew 100 masks for the Navajo community as well as donate to her mother’s chemotherapy center.

Rusnak is still figuring out her future after she graduates from Red Mountain, but she will continue to aim for what she has done best: helping others in need.

“I just wanted to give back to all the people that helped me,” Rusnak said. “They are the ones who shaped me into who I am and helped me have good memories of my childhood. It is important to give back to those people.”

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