It's a busy Monday afternoon at Lil' Traders, a children's resale shop on Tucson's east side.
A steady stream of customers, kids in tow, come into the store, browsing the racks of tiny outfits, looking over the children's books and checking out the shelves where Bert and Ernie and Tigger and Pooh sit. Some carry in bags of clothes and toys, hoping for some extra cash or trade credit.
As the customers talk with store manager Katy Gierlach, it's easy to understand why the bright and cheerful shop has repeatedly won awards in Tucson Weekly's annual Best of Tucson® edition.
But there's one element missing: The store's owner, Lynne Loranger, has been out of action since May.
Gierlach says she misses having Lynne in the store.
"She's very generous," Gierlach says. "She puts people ahead of herself. She's an excellent mom who does everything for her kids."
It's been a rough year for Lynne and her family. Her 15-year-old daughter, Emma, took a spill last August that broke her hip. That accident led to the discovery of a tumor that had to be surgically removed.
The tumor was benign, but Emma battles cerebral palsy and she needed extra physical therapy after her operation. Unfortunately, the insurance company would only pay for a week of physical therapy, so Emma ended up in a wheelchair when she came home.
It was big setback for Emma, who had been using canes to get around before her accident.
"She went from not being able to crawl to using a walker to using crutches to using these canes," Lynne says. "She could get around pretty well."
But in the wake of the surgery, Emma needed a lot of extra help getting from her wheelchair to her bed to anywhere else she needed to get. And while she was helping Emma, Lynne felt a pain in her side. At first she thought it might just be a pulled muscle, but X-rays showed a tumor in her kidney.
Lynne had surgery in May and has been recovering at home since. The good news: Doctors believe they successfully removed the tumor. The bad news: A subsequent biopsy showed the cancer was more advanced than they thought, so there's a risk it may come back.
Last week, Lynne got some good news: Her doctor told her she could return to work in August.
Meanwhile, Emma is getting around the house these days with the help of a walker.
"She's made progress, but I truly believe that if she'd had that month of therapy, she'd be walking with just one cane or maybe even no cane," Lynne says.
Lynne is hopeful that Emma will be able to go back to high school this year after missing her entire freshman year last year. Emma kept up with her schoolwork via a home-study program, so she'll be a sophomore this year. Lynne boasts: "My sweetie got straight A's."
Lynne is eager to get back to the shop, which she's owned for the last seven years.
"It is killing me, because I'm telling you, that store is my third child," she says. "You get to know the families, you get to see their kids born and grow up."
Regular customer Jennifer Davenport calls Lynne "so generous." She's seen Lynne put an extra pair of pants in the bag of someone who couldn't afford them or bump up someone's trade credit if they needed a little help.
"If somebody needs a hand, she is on it," Davenport says. "She donates gift certificates for raffles, she has a box in there for the Food Bank. She's just a really, really good person all around."
Lynne says she's been blessed by the support that she's had since her surgery. She has health insurance, but the bills are still piling up. Her friends are trying to help out a fundraising campaign on giveforward.com that has raised more than $4,500 as of earlier this week. That's just about 10 percent of the goal of $48,000.
At the shop, Gierlach has put other projects on hold to work at the store five or six days a week, and a former employee has volunteered to fill in to let Gierlach get some days off. The customers have been asking what they can do to help; one mom brought in three dollars and said her daughter had emptied her piggy bank on Lynne's behalf.
"That's the kind of business that I have and I love and I miss and I want to get back to," Lynne says.