WAXAHACHIE — Raising awareness and support for families with children affected by a life-altering trauma, Our Sunflower Friends of Ellis County is hosting its fourth annual “Family Festival,” scheduled for Oct. 14.
“Our main purpose is to bring attention to those within our own community, within our own backyards who need our support every day,” expressed Vicki Grady, President of Our Sunflower Friends.
“So we’re having this event to help two special little boys and their families,” she added.
Founded in 2014, the faith-based organization has since helped three children and their families with medical expenses, cost of living, and everyday needs, now sponsoring two little boys this year.
“The Children’s Hospital of Fort Worth refer us to our next kids each year,” Grady articulated. “So we reached out to them, and our board goes over the information, and we help the two we can best help.”
“I feel very honored to help out the community in this way and help some kids in our own backyard,” she included.
According to the organization, the two children in need for this year is Adam Keller and Parker Abbott.
As both boys have faced unimaginable odds of battling cancer, the nonprofit will be fundraising for them and their families to help pay for medical expenses and help cover the cost of everyday living.
“It’s amazing, not only for the strength the two little boys have, but the endurance, courage, and faith their parents stand on day after day even when they have no answer or things aren’t looking good - they stand strong, firm, and true. I always tell them that they’re my heroes and they inspire me every day and the least we can do as a community is help out,” she included.
The all-day event will combine two programs as the first half will be directed towards families with children, and the second half towards adults and older teenagers.
“It’s going to be amazing, and the morning is all about the kids,” Grady explained. “We’ll have fire trucks, dodgeball tournaments, a live magic show, and so much more for families to enjoy and have fun.”
From a video game truck to a water balloon launch, rock wall climbing, bounce houses, pony rides, face painting, and “Stuff n' Go Animal” activity, Grady guarantees a good time.
In addition to the festive activities, there will also be a Brisket Cook-Off with a 60/40 cash split, and a Chili CASI-sanctioned registered cook-off event as well.
As the day progresses into the evening, Grady also explains that the tickets purchased for Casino Night will include food, drinks, $500 in Casino Bucks, and a live band.
And since the Ellis County Expo Center is a “BYOB facility,” Gray mentioned that attendants should feel free to “Bring Your Own Beverage or Beer” of choice.
“We’ll have a street taco buffet bar, drinks, and a local band that’s been around for a while and they are amazing at rock and roll and blues,” Grady recognized. “As for the casino games, we’ll also have Black Jack, Texas Hold‘em, Poker, slot machines, and so much more.”
Emphasizing that there will be some tempting door prizes during the raffle, Grady goes on to share that the number one prize will include a $2,000 vacation package of choice for one lucky winner.
As stated by the organization's website, the funds raised from the fundraiser will help three-year-old Adam who has been fighting stage-four high-risk Neuroblastoma cancer for a year.
Undergoing five rounds of chemo, tumor removal, and stem cell transplant, he has recently completed antibody therapy and is now in his last six months of treatment to becoming cancer-free.
The nonprofit also notes Parker who was born on April 9, 2015 and developed a lazy eye when he was six-months-old.
His mother, Leslie Abbott, became concerned and took him to see the doctor to which she found out that Parker has a rare cancer called Bilateral Retinoblastoma.
Receiving treatments and surgeries ever since, Parker, unfortunately, had one of his eyes removed to keep the cancer from spreading.
“His cancer is located in his eyes, and he grows tumors off the retina in his eyes,” Abbott explained. “It’s rare, but even more rare when it’s bilateral – which is in both eyes, and he has that.”
Though the tumor has decreased its growth in size and spreading, Abbott, being a single mother, continues to face the stress of finical strain to meet her son’s physical needs.
“It means the world to me that the community is coming together for this and they don’t even know my son,” Abbott began. “That the people you live around and the friends and family you work with, to know that they’re not only coming to have fun but to also support my son – that’s what community is really about."
“Throughout this journey, I became a single mom and went from two incomes to none, and when you don’t have that with medical prescriptions and appointments, it gets really tough," she paused. "Something a lot of people don’t realize is that you’re not just battling cancer, it’s a whole lot of other factors as well."
Grady shares that such medical bills and procedures are a heavy burden on the families, racking up debt for both families.
“These families have to drive back and forth to the hospital every day, and we found out that they end up missing house payments or car repairs, or so many things. So we give them the money to have them use what best fits the need for the individual family,” Grady recognized.
To support these families in a "wrap-around community," Our Sunflower Friends invites Ellis County residents to help raise funds for the Abbott and Keller families and to have a good ‘ol southern-fun time.
“I feel like we have a lot of support from the community,” Abbott expressed. “To have an event like this is not just about raising money, it’s about coming together, having fun, and networking with all of the people you live around, and that’s just as important to me than anything else. So I hope everyone can make it out.”
“I’m very, very excited and it's a great day to enjoy,” Grady added.
“Love and kindness start at home, so with that said, Adam and Parker need our home, here in Waxahachie. This is an amazing community that has a lot of love and support for their own. So come on out and show these kids some love, support, and let’s help them in their fight against cancer," she encouraged.
The Family Festival is scheduled for Oct. 14 at the Ellis County Expo Center on 2300 U.S. Highway 287, Waxahachie. The first half of the event will be from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. Tickets are $5 at the gate for ages 13 and up.
The second part of the event will be from 5 p.m. – 10 p.m, and will be for ages 17 and up. The Casino tickets are $50 each. For more information, visit oursunflowerfriends.org or call (469)-226-3080.
Chelsea Groomer, @ChelseaGroomer