Community helps woman ‘make memories’


Jan Blackgrave

JASPER — A local business is using the power of flowers to support a Celestine woman battling Stage 4 cancer.

On Tuesday, a portion of all perennial, tree and shrub sales at both Green Thumb Landscaping & Gardening Centers in Dubois County will go to Jan Blackgrave, who has fought the disease since March 2018.

Nicole Jeffries-Schnell, president of Green Thumb, explained that she and her twin sister and fellow Green Thumb leader, Natalie Combs, have known Blackgrave and her family for years.

They wanted to help.

“She’s a very positive girl, and she’s making the most of a bad situation,” Jeffries-Schnell said. “She doesn’t complain. She’s just a really wonderful person.”   

The initial diagnosis was a shock to Blackgrave, 44, who owns and works full-time at Illusions Nail-Hair Studio and Day Spa in Jasper. She originally visited a hospital to address what she believed was a gallbladder attack.

What began as colon cancer later metastasized into Blackgrave’s liver. Though she cleared her body in October 2018 and was healthy, the cancer returned in December in her lungs and liver.

She has undergone rounds of chemotherapy treatments and surgeries throughout the past year and change. Money raised through the Green Thumb benefit will help offset those medical and travel expenses as well as supplement her savings account.

Blackgrave said local businesses are regularly asked for donations for benefits, school donations and more. Being on the receiving side is special to her.

“It’s really neat that the community has come back and [is] showing me how much we actually make an impact on everybody else, because we’re feeling it now,” she said in a Thursday phone interview, while traveling back from a doctor’s appointment in Indianapolis.

The Blackgrave family

In addition to the Green Thumb fundraiser, Blackgrave will also be the beneficiary of a RideTech benefit car show. That event will take place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, May 11, at 350 S. St. Charles St., Jasper.

Bake sale items and raffle tickets will be available, and those wanting to donate a bake sale item may take them to the St. Celestine Hall kitchen from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday, May 10, or to the bake sale stand during the car show.

Blackgrave has also felt love from her tight-knit community in less organized ways.

“People just stop me at the grocery store,” she said. “It’s kind of amazing how many people I get texts from, I don’t even know who they are, and they said, ‘I’ve heard you have cancer, I’m really sorry to hear that.’ With Facebook and things, people really reach out.”

Blackgrave said she’s sure part of the money raised through the Green Thumb fundraiser will also go toward having fun — an aspect of life that Jeffries-Schnell feels passionately about. 

“I want her to be able to ... have fun with her girls and use this money for fun time, and not necessarily worry about the medical bills,” Jeffries-Schnell said. “I want her to just make memories.”

Jan is married to Aaron Blackgrave. They have two daughters: Halle, 13; and Aubre, 11.

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