#036;13,000+ raised for 11-year-old

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 12, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

Preparing for the chili cook-off at the Suffolk Christian Church on Friday evening, local chefs, even those whose work hadn’t been seen outside their own kitchens, gathered together the ingredients for an effective culinary offering.

Some of them used meat. Others went heavy on the spices. Still others used their own elements that they’d never reveal to the outside world.

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Added to all of the results, however, was a bit of love and compassion. Every entry offered a sample of helping out those in need, especially an 11-year-old preparing for a double-lung transplant. As the dishes lined up at the church, they represented the human spirit, and the care for others.

That’s why hundreds of people, many of which had never before set foot in the church, visited the event. That’s why they awarded prizes to their personal favorite chilis. That’s why they took part in a silent auction through the night. And that’s why, at the night’s end, over $13,000 had been raised for Emily Haley, whose affliction with cystic fibrosis will require her to have the transplant.

&uot;I used some Italian sauces, ground church, chili pepper, and diced onions,&uot; Janine Joyner said of her cuisine. &uot;I’ve never met Emily, but I feel like every bit helps. If I ever needed help like this, I hope that people would be there for me.&uot;

Joyner was one of nearly a dozen local cooks, including the Suffolk and Chesapeake Fire Departments, that gave visitors a chance to sample their buffet of meaty soup.

&uot;I don’t have a secret recipe,&uot; said Rachel Mogren. &uot;I just used meat, beans and seasoning. My kids go to school with Emily (at the Suffolk Academy for Godley Education), and you’d never know that she needs a transplant. She never lets it bother her. She always seems like a regular kid.&uot;

Tanya Vogel knows what it’s like to have an afflicted child; born premature, her son weighed just two pounds, 13 ounces.

&uot;I know how her family feels,&uot; said Vogel, whose son fortunately recovered. &uot;I hate for a child to have their care hindered by not having money. My son’s O.K. now, and I think Emily will be too, because there’s so many people praying for me.

Event organizer Barbara Espinosa couldn’t believe the exact number.

&uot;This is great,&uot; she said, looking at the huge group of people milling around the large room. &uot;I was hoping and praying, but I didn’t know for sure. It’s great to have a full house; it’s all that matters. Once again, the community pulled through to help Emily.&uot;

It’s not the first time; since word got out about Emily’s plight last summer, people from across the nation have been offering support. Since then, over $386,000 has been raised for the family, on the way to the $500,000 needed for the procedure.

&uot;It’s unbelievable,&uot; said Emily’s mother Ruth. &uot;I don’t know what to say anymore. ‘Thank you’ just doesn’t even cover it. I see so many people who have never set foot in this church before tonight, and it just makes me realize that people do care. It’s been wonderful how so many people came together to help someone. When I look at these people, I see people who stood up and said, ‘We’re going to make a difference in a child’s life.’&uot;

The child in question, tired from her earlier stint on the 94.9 radio-a-thon at the Children’s Hospital for the King’s Daughters, slowly drank a soda.

&uot;I’m glad they’re all helping me,&uot; Emily said, hardly able to keep her eyes open. &uot;I’d like to say thanks to them for coming out. I’ll be fine, because I’ve been praying.&uot;