The word "family" can mean a lot of different things to different people.

Some people take the word literally: parents, siblings, aunts and uncles.  Some people consider close friends to be family.

St. Thomas More senior Janie Girouard’s definition of family changed two years ago.

That's when Janie’s mother, Loretta Lela Girouard, succumbed to cancer after a vigorous and spirited battle.

The loss devastated the Girouard family and the community. Loretta had become something of a local and national celebrity when she participated in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in Lafayette.

Loretta was in a wheelchair for most of the race, but finished the race on her feet in a stunning display of strength, fortitude and bravery.

Janie, in a theme that has become so common in her life, tried to find the silver lining in the awful cloud hanging over herself and her family.

“Loretta's passing hit us all pretty hard," said St. Thomas More softball coach Andria Waguespack. "People asked Janie how she was doing at school. She would say, ‘It’s OK; my momma is in heaven now.’”

Janie and her sister, Maddie, had lost a mother; Jason Girouard had lost a wife. But the Girouards had gained a huge extended family in the St. Thomas More community, especially the softball team.

“I don’t really feel like they mean anything to our family because they are our family. It’s not what they did for us; it’s what we have done together,” Jason Girouard said. “It started a long time ago when they accepted (Janie) and they lived through it.

“They were with us from perfectly healthy to the battle to the death. What they mean to us? They mean the world to us. They have been everything to us.”