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After cancer diagnosis, friends plan benefit for Grand Forks woman who has quietly impacted her community

The Seanna Strong Benefit takes place at the Alerus Center starting at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 19. The event will include a pasta dinner, silent and live auction, live music and more.

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Katie Langerud, Traci Scribner, Bonnie Hillerud, Seanna Smart and Karla Bracken prepare silent auction baskets for the Seanna Strong Benefit held Nov. 19.
Contributed / Katie Langerud
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GRAND FORKS — For years, Seanna Smart has quietly served the community of Grand Forks. She was a longtime obstetrics nurse at Altru, is involved with ministry at HOPE Church and has assisted others through home care. Now, a group of her close friends are hoping to rally the support of the community to give back to Smart.

In September, Smart was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer. To help financially support Smart and her family during the months of treatment and recovery ahead, a group of around 10 friends organized the Seanna Strong Benefit, which takes place at the Alerus Center starting at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 19. The event will include a pasta dinner, silent and live auction, live music and more.

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Katie Langerud, a longtime friend of Smart, hopes the financial assistance generated by the benefit will relieve some of the stress of cancer treatment for Smart and her family. Smart’s husband Scot works as a firefighter in Grand Forks and her three children Brody (15), Adley (12) and Emree (9) all attend school in Grand Forks.

“Financially, it’s going to be hard and if you can take that off somebody, having to worry about that, life just seems a little bit easier,” she said.

The Smart family has always lived in Grand Forks, and through her work as a nurse and home care assistant, Smart has impacted the lives of many others in the community, Langerud said.

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“She’s always so giving of herself to other people through her career,” said Langerud.

Smart is also deeply involved with her faith community. Friend Nicole Morris met Smart at HOPE Church in Grand Forks and their families have grown closer through the years. She says every person Smart meets is treated with the same care.

“Her presence is really what impacts the community and impacts people,” she said. “She loves people, she loves talking to people and she loves serving people.”

For Smart, the root of her service has always been living a life of kindness.

“Kindness can go such a long way because you never know what someone’s going through,” Smart said. “I’m very, very passionate about it, way prior to this cancer deal.”

Langerud, along with Bonnie Hillerud and other close friends of Smart, has been planning Saturday’s benefit for months, networking and reaching out to local businesses for donations for items to auction off.

Hillerud says seeing the support of others in the community as they heard Smart’s story has been eye opening.

“We live in an ugly world, and the beauty that’s come out with how much people actually care has been amazing,” said Hillerud.

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Ahead of the benefit, Smart’s friends have assembled 75 silent auction baskets, 30 live auction items and 15 raffle items from thousands of dollars worth of donations given by businesses and individuals in the Grand Forks community and beyond.

“It’s been unbelievable,” said Hillerud. “Especially when they don’t really even know her. That’s just something that is amazing to me.”

Smart says she is in awe of the work of her friends and the greater community for coming together to support her.

“The benefit isn’t even here, but I've seen the pieces that have come together and I’ve heard some of the things that they talked about, and I am just in pure gratitude,” she said.

So far, cancer treatment is going well, says Smart. She gives credit to her family, support system and faith, and is determined not to let cancer define her.

“I will never capitalize the word ‘cancer,’ ever,” she said. “I don’t care if it’s at the beginning of a sentence and the grammar is incorrect for me not to with punctuation, I won’t because I will never give it that power.”

Through cancer treatment, Smart is still striving to spread kindness and help others through her journey. She says she is interested in starting a cancer support group in Grand Forks for others with cancer and cancer survivors.

Before her cancer diagnosis, her family moved to a farm outside of town, and eventually they plan to build a barn to be used as a space for youth in the community to gather, learn and grow their faith.

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“That is our action plan coming — to be able to serve the community,” she said. “My husband and I love children, so we really look forward to that coming into fruition.

The benefit for Smart is on Saturday, Nov. 19, from 3-11 p.m. at the Alerus Center. Along with the silent auction, live auction and pasta feed, the benefit will also have a photobooth, activities for children and raffle tickets. More information about the benefit can be found on the Seanna Strong Benefit event page on Facebook.

Related Topics: GRAND FORKS
Ingrid Harbo joined the Grand Forks Herald in September 2021.

Harbo covers Grand Forks region news, and also writes about business in Grand Forks and the surrounding area.

Readers can reach Harbo at 701-780-1124 or iharbo@gfherald.com. Follow her on Twitter @ingridaharbo.
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