Over the past ten years, a small Lewis County group of friends has held a fundraiser every year for families who needed help. This all started when one of Stacy Millet’s best friends began losing her battle with cancer.
“Since we lost her, we just do the event in her memory,” Millet said. “Every year, we put it together for local families and organizations from our community.”
That first year, Millet, her friends and a couple family members organized a fundraiser that attracted around 120 people and raised $25,000.
“It was real touch and go with trying to come up with finances,” said Millet’s mother Patsy Gaut. “It was a very emotional event. There were lots of people and lots of support. I said ‘Are you sure you want to do this again?’ and she said there are people out there who need this. No matter how tired you are, you just have to do it.”
Since then, the group has chosen various families with Lewis County ties to help every year. For the most part, the fundraisers have benefitted young children.
“It’s saved houses before,” Gaut said. “I think the second year was a family that were putting all their money toward hospital and doctor bills for their little 4-year-old.”
Millet noted that boy has been in remission for the last seven years
“You hear those kinds of stories, and you helped when they were in the thick of it,” Millet said. “They are very grateful and it’s just so exciting to see that he’s in remission — they’re doing well. To be able to help just a little bit in that time of need, take a little financial pressure off, is the best feeling in the world.”
Millet owns the scrapbooking business Quick Quotes Scrapbook Company with her mother, one of her sisters and her husband. The company has been in business almost 17 years.
“It still pays the bills, so we’re still doing it,” Millet joked.
This year, organizers are hosting the 2018 Lewis County Holiday Gala at the Vintage Grand Room at the Historic Hotel Washington in Chehalis. Millet said the number of attendees fluctuates from year to year, but stays between 90 and 120. For the last 10 years, the fundraiser has raised between $17,000 and $25,000 annually.
The gala includes live music — two college students who will play guitar and saxophone — beer and wine. There is both a silent as well as a live auction with auctioneer Gee Scott, who is the host of “KIRO Nights” on 97.3 KIRO FM in Seattle and a game-day host for the Seattle Seahawks.
“He’s really, really fun and he really gets the crowd involved,” Millet said. “He’s been with us for the last three or four years and he’s amazing.”
Sunny Weaver, Stacy Millet’s sister who works for the city of Centralia, spends nearly a year collecting and organizing the auction items.
This year, money from the fundraiser will go to two local families and six local organizations or causes — Centralia College TRiO Club, Coats for Kids, East Lewis County Toy Drive, Paisley’s Posse, Lewis County Foster Children and The Cat’s Meow Spay, Neuter & Adoption Project.
Half of the proceeds will be divided between the local organizations. The other half will be split evenly between two local families. One is Björn Roth, a 2-year-old boy with Leukemia whose family lives in Napavine.
The other is Lennon Hendricks, a 7-month-old baby girl with Systemic Mastocytosis. Systemic Mastocytosis is a rare disease. Her body produces too many mast cells and her skin blisters easily. The family currently lives in California, but her mother is from Mossyrock.
“I can barely talk about it without crying,” Millet said. “... Both the families are so inspirational. You read their updates and they are always positive. Even the hard things that they’re going through, their families are always positive and very grateful for any help offered to them.”
Millet said that she and other organizers considered skipping the gala this year — then they heard about Björn and Lennon through a friend of a friend.
“We read the stories on these two little babies,” Millet said. “We just could not pass up having this event to raise money for the families. This year, it was really crazy busy and we thought about skipping a year. But, the moment we read the stories of these two little kids, we were like ‘we have to do it.’”
The 2018 Lewis County Holiday Gala will take place from 6-10 p.m. this Saturday at the the Vintage Grand Room at the Historic Hotel Washington in Chehalis, located at 545 N. Market Blvd. To purchase tickets, go to www.brownpapertickets.com/event/3658422.