Saturday, September 20, 2014

Special Weekend Edition, for the Kids

Hello again, friends! There's an event this coming Sunday that I mentioned briefly in my last "Weekend in Winterset" post, but I wanted to share a little more background on the host, The Tori's Angels Foundation, and how it connects to our community.

First, the event is a Family Fun Fair Benefit, occurring tomorrow from 11:00 to 2:00 at St. Joseph Catholic Church, 1026 N. 8th Ave. in Winterset (and the grassy space between St. Joseph and St. Paul Lutheran).
I bet you can picture the event, and you know it will be fun for kids and families (my daughter loves a good bounce house), but what you may not know is that the Tori's Angels Foundation is a non-profit corporation started by Bill Ridgely and based in Panora, Iowa. Three years ago, Mr. Ridgely was deeply moved by the case of a young girl named Tori Heckman from Panora, and the struggles that her family faced in order to provide adequate treatment for a life-threatening heart condition she was born with, Tetralogy of Fallot. I don't know what this family's personal situation is or was at that time, but regardless -- and I know this from personal experience, as do many of you -- serious illness puts emotional and financial stress on every family that is faced with it.

Mr. Ridgely started Tori's Angels with the goal of picking up where insurance leaves off for parents of children with life-threatening illnesses, newborn to age 18, providing help with travel, hotel stays, meals, and co-pays. Three years after its inception, there are twelve Iowa children receiving assistance in the "Angel Family," including Talon Ridout, son of Ashley (Weeks) and Marc Ridout, and Esther "Essie" Hanson, daughter of Abby (Ward) and Adam Hanson, all of Winterset.

Talon Ridout has a sweet smile!
Abby and Adam Hanson, who became aware of Tori's Angels by strong recommendation from the Ridouts, have felt incredibly blessed to be part of it and want other parents in Winterset and around Iowa to know that the foundation is seeking more children to help. To qualify, a child needs only to live in Iowa, be 18 or younger, and have a life-threatening illness. Aside from easing the burden of costs related to their frequent travels to Michigan for treatment, association with the foundation also provides a great deal of emotional support from the other parents involved that are facing similar issues. In fact, Essie Hanson's condition is the same one as Tori's, the namesake of the foundation, Tetralogy of Fallot. And as the Hansons have undergone numerous surgeries and procedures in Essie's first year of life, they've been able to turn to Tori's family, as well as the research of the foundation, for support and advice.

One-year-old Essie Hanson also has a twin brother, Teddy.
"Bill, the head of it, is a saint," said Abby Hanson. It seems that most people know Mr. Ridgely as a farmer, but he also has some serious connections in the corporate world and the ability to secure donations from multiple resources. The fundraising events that are held in the hometowns of each of the foundation's kids are helpful, and they raise awareness, but that income alone is not nearly enough to offset the costs of ancillary medical expenses. Abby Hanson stressed that while this fundraiser is in support of Essie and Talon, it is not the kind of event where the two families will walk away with a check to split the proceeds. Instead, all of the money for this and other Tori's Angels fundraisers goes back to the foundation to help all of the kids, and the benefit to the Hansons and Ridouts is that they don't have to handle all the bills on their own. Co-pays for Essie's multiple cardiologist appointments, for example, are sent directly to the foundation and the Hansons do not have to see them. The other families involved receive the same care when they need it -- all for one, and one for all. "Their goal is to take a burden off the families, just one burden," said Abby. "It's one thing the parents don't have to think about."

Click here for a WHO News video segment featuring Bill Ridgely and Tori, from October of 2013.
The Hansons are currently waiting on a catheterization procedure, which they were going to do a month ago, but it had to be delayed because Essie was sick. Some of her scar tissue is closing in a few places, and they're going to do some balloons to stretch it out. Her next open heart surgery will likely be in about three to five years. Talon, who has Infantile Progressive Scoliosis, recently had his ninth surgery to help straighten his spine.

I haven't met Talon personally, but he sure looks spunky. I love the boots!
In addition to a bounce house, face painting, zoo animals, photo ops with Batman and Princesses (etc.), Sunday's event will include good food and an impressive list of silent auction items, including a Green Bay autographed football, Iowa Wild tickets, tickets to "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" at the Civic Center, John Deere model tractors, a brand new 15' by 42' swimming pool, lots of beautiful gifts, jewelry, and decor, and gift certificates to movies, restaurants, B&Bs, car services, and more. Please consider joining them for a free-will donation on Sunday, the 21st, from 11:00 to 2:00. You can read more about the Tori's Angels Foundation, and follow the progress of Essie and Talon and the other kids, by clicking right here.

Before I leave you, I must point out that if you have a family with young kids, this is a jackpot weekend in Winterset. In addition to the Tori's Angels Benefit on Sunday, there's a Family Fun Day happening in conjunction with the Winterset Bike Night event on the square TONIGHT, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., sponsored by Madison County Cares. Madison County Cares is a coalition of individuals and services that are focused on making Madison County an overall healthier, safer place for all residents, and children in particular. This event will include face painting, temporary tattoos, inflatables, a caraciture artist, games, and prizes. They will also have a 4-wheeler up for raffle, and the winner will be drawn at 9:00 (need not be present to win). The 4-wheeler was donated by Air Cooled Engines, and the proceeds go to support various projects coordinated by Madison County Cares, such as the Every 15 Minutes initiative, their Health, Safety & Wellness Fair, Family Fun Day, the Drug Drop, and others.

Also, as I mentioned on Thursday, the Iowa Theater is offering five dollar tickets all weekend and into next week for Walt Disney's animated adventure/comedy, "Planes: Fire & Rescue" (PG). Show times this weekend are 7:00 on Saturday and 5:00 on Sunday.

Parents, also note that The Pumpkin Ranch will open for the season next Saturday, the 27th! More details coming on their five year anniversary celebration later this week.

Thank you for reading The Winterset Citizen, and please consider subscribing by e-mail... still free! Have a great rest of the weekend in Winterset.