By Dusten Rader
Three area families in need of support are set to receive a special gift this holiday season.
Kallie Swan, the beneficiary of the Kallie’s Krusade fundraiser held in September.
The Chautauqua Mall will play host to the first annual Family Shopping Extravaganza on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
In addition to featuring more than 40 businesses and crafters, the event will serve as a benefit for three area families: Shawna, Keith and Annika Kohlbacher; Maryann and Dennis Blanchard; and Tara, Shane and Kallie Swan.
During the event, a fundraising table will feature baskets made of gifts from various participating vendors. The proceeds from the table will serve to benefit the Kohlbacher and Blanchard families. A 65-gallon fish tank will also be available to win in a drawing based on donations, with the proceeds serving to benefit the Swans.
According to Mrs. Kohlbacher, the benefit will serve to help her family financially as her daughter, Annika, recovers from surgeries to remove an oralpharangial teratoma growing out of the roof of her mouth. The diagnosis was made 20 weeks into Shawna's pregnancy, and led to various complications that ultimately resulted in the family temporarily relocating for treatment at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
After an emergency caesarean section, Annika needed a tracheostomy, and because she survived the procedure, she became the earliest baby ever decannulated in the history of the hospital, Mrs. Kohlbacher said. Annika is now home in Jamestown, but still requires further treatment for a cleft palate.
"It was a complete miracle," Kohlbacher said. "They are doing a study on Annika to hopefully decannulate other babies early as well. It's a sad, but beautiful story. We're still making frequent trips to Buffalo for treatment, and I've been unable to work because I have to be available for close care. It's been a challenge financially, so this benefit will help greatly. Also, I want to get this story out there to encourage others."
The event will also serve to benefit the Blanchards. Maryann, an area resident who battled ovarian cancer for three years, recently passed away following a diagnosis of congestive heart failure. Over the course of their struggles, the couple was met with significant financial hardship, and were forced to stop serving as foster parents to five children as a result of the deterioration caused by the disease.
Kallie Swan, the daughter of Tara and Shane, a nearly 2-year-old Falconer girl who was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in August, was the beneficiary of the Kallie's Krusade fundraiser held in September.
According to Heleena Walter, event organizer, one of the reasons she decided to plan the extravaganza is because she runs a home business called Mary & Martha that she wants to introduce to the community. But, while planning the event she realized the focus should be on making the event family friendly to create lasting holiday shopping memories and also to raise funds for local families in need, she said.
"I did not want to see parents leave their kids at home to go out shopping. Instead I wanted to encourage families to make memories and enjoy picking out items for the holidays," Walter said. "With that thought, it became a quick transition from focusing on our businesses to families. And, what better way to spread love to others than to highlight a few families I have come to care for that are in financial need because of medical issues."
The event will also feature live entertainment by Matt Homan and the Bluegrass Disciples, Anthony Flint Jr., Stephanie Benson, Gaffar Adam's Karate Academy, Davis and Eng and LadyLuna Hoop and Fan. Family-friendly games with prizes will also be run by Chautauqua Opportunities.
For more information, call 489-4657 or search for "Family Shopping Extravaganza at the Chautauqua Mall" on Facebook.