A major fundraising push is being coordinated to help the family of a 7-year-old Novato girl who is receiving aggressive radiation treatment and chemotherapy at St. Jude’s Children's Research Hospital in Tennessee.
Kayla Rose Dehnert, a second-grade student at , was diagnosed on Nov. 11 with a brain tumor after experiencing weeks of migraine headaches. Within six days, she underwent surgery to remove the tumor and the family received notice that it was cancerous just two days before Thanksgiving.
The family is well-known in the Novato community. Kayla’s grandmother, Vicki Smith, is the owner of , where Kayla’s mother, Annie, also works as a stylist.
Nicole Choi, whose daughter is Kayla’s good friend, took immediate action to coordinate a fundraising effort to help the family, as the Dehnerts left for Memphis on Tuesday to support their daughter’s recovery. Kayla’s younger brother, Anthony, is staying with family and friends in Novato.
“I sent an e-mail to everyone I could think of, and literally 60 people volunteered to help,” Choi said.
In a short period of time, the fundraising team has set up a flier, blog site and Paypal account where information about how to donate can be found.
The “Curing Kayla Rose” fundraising team has organized and divided the city into zones. Thirteen Novato families have each selected a zone to focus their efforts. “This weekend we have teams going to all the businesses and strip malls in Novato to put up fliers,” Choi said.
Knowing that the family will be without income for many months, the group is also getting the word out about multiple fundraising efforts.
Choi said Lu Sutton volunteers have started “Coins for Kayla” — boxes in all the classrooms for the kids to contribute. A fundraiser will be set up soon at called “Kettlebells for Kayla.” Doctors expect Kayla will start losing her hair in March, and so a “Buzz the Fuzz” fundraiser is being planned so people can shave off their hair in support of Kayla.
Another fundraising appeal has gone out to families of the . Kayla played on the team last season, coached by Choi and Kayla's father, Denny Dehnert. Choi said a large fundraiser dinner is in the works for February and volunteers are looking for auction items, in-kind services and cash for the event.
While Choi has helped with fundraising efforts before, she finds this experience is different.
“I never had to do it for a close friend — never for someone that’s so precarious. This is so much more emotional,” she said.
Choi is keeping in daily contact with the family from the hospital in Tennessee and said that they are astonished by the support.
“They didn’t expect the community to help full-throttle.”
'CURING KAYLA ROSE' FUND
To donate to the “Curing Kayla Rose” fund, an account has been set up at the — Dehnert Family Account 1553. There are three branch locations where donations may be made.
- 209 Third Street, San Rafael
- 301 North McDowell Blvd., Petaluma
To follow the progress, the family has set up a blog, “Curing Kayla Rose,” which also contains the link to the PayPal account for donations.
For more information about volunteering or donations, Nicole Choi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.