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UPDATE: Memorial service set Friday for WF student Eleni Wilson; family plans organ donation

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News Fargo, 58102
West Fargo Pioneer
(701) 241-5487 customer support
Fargo North Dakota 101 5th Street North 58102

A memorial service has been set for Friday to honor a 17-year-old West Fargo High School senior who suffered a fatal brain aneurysm Tuesday.

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Eleni Wilson was officially listed in "critical condition" at Essentia Hospital this morning.

However, high school Principal Cory Steiner said hospital officials told him Wednesday night Eleni displayed "no brain activity" and her prognosis was "extremely poor."

Eleni's family is in the process of arranging organ retrieval, Steiner said.

With the family's blessing, he said school officials have arranged the memorial service as a way to "celebrate her life."

The service - which is open to the public - is set for 7 p.m. Friday at the Speedway Event Center in West Fargo, 680 Main Ave. W.

Eleni collapsed during nightly Drama Club practice at the high school, where she and her classmates were preparing for upcoming performances of "Cinderella."

The West Fargo community continues to grieve today, as teachers, friends and peers face the finality of Eleni's condition.

"It's been difficult to say the very least," said Adam Pankow, WFHS theater director. "There's finality to her passing that there wasn't yesterday."

Eleni was cast as the evil stepmother in the November shows of "Cinderella," which features a cast and crew of about 70 students.

Pankow said he spent all day Wednesday with the theater students, as they mourned and remembered their friend together.

"We shared a lot of tears, a lot of stories, a lot of laughter," Pankow said. "We're grieving and processing this."

Eleni's classmates also found other ways on Wednesday to deal with the tragedy; several gathered at Essentia Hospital and others attended a prayer service at Fargo's Bethel Church.

The Rev. Neal Kloster said about 50 of Eleni's peers gathered in an "outpouring of love and support."

"It was a lot of people in despair and looking for answers, trying to give them peace in this difficult time," Kloster said.

Eleni passed out just after 6 p.m. while taking a break between the Drama Club's double practice Tuesday evening.

Pankow said Eleni had been on stage all day, playing her role "hilarious and wonderful."

He was later told by students that Eleni mentioned she had had a little headache.

Eleni had gone into the bathroom to rest. She was found there a few minutes later and the ambulance was called, Pankow said.

"There's just a deep ache for our friend," he said. "I sense there's a deeper grief and anguish, too, as some of these kids lose their innocence. For some of them, this is their first touch of mortality."

"Yesterday helped us realize the impact of a friend and how really truly special she was," Pankow added.

Eleni is the daughter of Maria and Geoff Wilson, owners of the Santa Lucia restaurants in Fargo-Moorhead.

Eleni's uncle, Greg Wilson, told The Forum Wednesday that the damage Eleni suffered from the brain hemorrhage "is quite extensive."

"Yesterday [Tuesday], she went to school like any other day: She was a healthy vibrant 17-year-old girl by all accounts," Wilson said. "It's something that's unpredictable, and it just happens. Unfortunately, it's happened to Eleni."

Greg Wilson described his niece as "a fabulous kid, a pleasure to be around."

"She loved school, she loved her studies," he said. "She has been so ambitious and looking forward to her future. It's a terrible thing."

"The outpouring of support from the school and the community has been incredible," Wilson said. "It goes to show how many people she did touch and how many people she was important to."

Steiner said the school brought in extra counselors this week to help students and faculty, as needed.

"She is a remarkable young lady who has had a huge impact on our student body," Steiner said. "We knew the impact she had was big, but we didn't know how big until this happened."

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