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Wednesday

July 2014

23

Oconomowoc family overwhelmed by local support after cancer diagnosis

Fundraiser nets $9,500 to help OHS grad

City of Oconomowoc - Community members turned out in strong numbers to support Vanessa Stock Hood, a 2005 Oconomowoc High School graduate, at a benefit held in her honor. Hood was recently diagnosed with acute lymphoblastonic leukemia.

Event organizers sold T-shirts and participating downtown merchants offered T-shirt-wearing shoppers special discounts on merchandise. Raffle and auction items and live music helped to round out the day on Nov. 11.

Some taverns had drink specials and another offered a percentage of sales to the effort.

"The event went really well; we raised $9,500 that day," said Jess East who, along with two other OHS classmates, arranged thebenefit.

"We had 75 people for the walk, and over 100 for the silent auction/raffle/music at the German Bar and we sold 203 T-shirts."

"We sold out of the 115 T-shirts by 11:15 a.m., we had order forms for folks to have the shirts either shipped to them or to pick them up at a later date," she said.

East said they were pleased with the turnout.

 "I am so thrilled with the turnout and support of the community. It was a successful day in terms of fundraising, but also more importantly, in terms of a community gathering together and supporting the local family," she said.

"I kept looking at Vanessa's family throughout the day and just saw the shock on their faces. It was truly great to see," she added.

 East said the evening ended with a song that summed up the commitment to their friend.

"We closed the evening with musicians Keith Pulvermacher and Josh Mann leading us in 'Stand By Me,' by Ben E. King. It was such a touching moment and really told the story of the community standing by Vanessa," East said.

Hood said that she was "awe-struck" by her friends' commitment to the fundraiser. "I know how time-consuming and stressful organizing an event like this can be," said Hood, who was involved, ironically, in the fundraising for the Leukemia and Lymphoma's Society when she lived in St. Louis.

"I could never thank all the people that helped shape this event and assisted Jess inexecuting the day of, enough. All of the participating local businesses that sponsored items or allowed a discount for walkers and especially the local German Bar for hosting after the walk - I could never give enough thank yous.

"It's a very overwhelming feeling to know the sense community I grew up in, and now have returned to, has not changed. I was shocked at the amount of people that showed up and that they sold out of T-shirts," Hood said.

"I was getting released from the hospital that day and I wanted so badly to drive by while everyone was walking around the lake but I wasn't discharged until the afternoon," she explained.

Adding to the joy of returning home was the news of the success of the benefit.

"The icing on the cake was the text message from Jess telling me how much the benefit had raised for me. Scott, my husband, and I hugged and cried together because we were so blown away by the generosity of everyone involved. I am still overwhelmed by the continued support of cards, texts and emails I receive. I am so grateful for them because on the tough days those are things that help pick me up.

"I feel so blessed to have the family, friends, and community I do; they are my amazing support group. I have no doubt in my mind that I will beat this cancer. I want to thank everyone from the bottom of my heart involved in the benefit," Hood added.

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