First Posted: 7/18/2014
At first glance, Ella Skerel, 2, appears to be a perfectly happy and healthy child.
She loves to swing, play on the playground, go hiking with her daddy, wrestle with her older brothers and breathe in the scent of pretty flowers at the park.
But on some days, that breath comes short.
The almost 3-year-old will soon undergo her third heart surgery for Hypo-plastic Left Heart Syndrome, a congenital heart disease, which prevents the left side of her heart from growing.
Co-workers of Ella’s father, Loring, at Geisinger Wyoming Valley’s Intensive Care Unit, along with other members of the community, are working to show the Clarks Summit family how much they care by organizing a fundraiser on their behalf.
One co-worker, Vikki Morgan, of Pittston, said when someone close to the ICU team gets sick, the crew will “pass the hat” around and collect a small gift for him or her. This time, however, passing the hat wasn’t going to cut it.
“We knew that this was going to require much more money,” she added. “That’s kind of how this all started. We just thought, as a group, passing the hat, more or less, just around us wasn’t going to be enough. We were going to have to try and get this kid some help.”
The fundraising event is still in its early planning stages, but the date is set for Sept. 6 at Ashley Fire House. Activities tentatively planned include a motorcycle run, bounce houses, face painting, live music, a basket raffle, food, drinks, bake sale and bracelets and T-shirts for sale. More information and details about the event will be posted on the fundraiser’s Facebook page, www.facebook.com/ellabenefit, as they become available.
Morgan also started an online fundraising page via the website Go Fund Me, at gofundme.com/Open-Your-Heart-for-Ella. In the first 13 days, 40 people raised over a third of the website’s $6,000 goal, bringing in $2,435.
“We never, in our wildest dreams, expected anything from that,” she said. “First of all, I wasn’t even sure we hooked it up right.”
But, more than 100 Facebook “shares” helped get the project off the ground almost immediately.
“It’s incredible,” Morgan said. “It’s really incredible that a lot of these complete strangers, some family, some co-workers, you know, that they actually donated already. It just blows my mind. It’s just phenomenal.”
Even the children of many of Skerel’s coworkers are involved, helping plan the event, designing pink and purple T-shirts (Ella’s favorite colors) and making bracelets.
Colin Davis, 11, son of Steve Davis, of Dallas, got a head start on the fund raising by making bracelets to sell, along with lemonade, at a table on his front lawn during the annual Back Mountain Memorial Library Auction. He also plans to sell the bracelets at the Sept. 6 event.
“I just want to help her,” he said, “and make her feel better.”
All money raised is to go toward the household, medical, transportation and lodging expenses the family expects to incur during the time both parents will be off work for the upcoming surgery in Philadelphia.
Skerel was surprised when his co-workers first approached him regarding the fundraiser.
“It was a big relief,” he said, “because we (he and his wife, Jennifer) plan on being out of work for a couple weeks, at least, and we didn’t know how to make it work financially. It was very thoughtful of of them. In just the planning, there’s a lot of work going in to it. They’re giving a lot of their time and thoughts.”
“How do you not help someone when you know that they’re going to have such a financial burden?” said another co-worker, Nadine Demarco, of Pittston, “and are so worried on how they’re going to manage the other kids, their finances. I mean, how do you not help someone when you know they’re going through a hard time?”
“And,” she added, “she’s a beautiful little girl with a great personality.”
“She’s always smiling,” he said, as he gave the giggling Ella a little push on the swing set at a local playground.