Dinwiddie neighbors get together to raise funds for local families’ medical expenses
CHURCH ROAD — A “Light the Community” fundraising dinner was held last weekend at the residence of Cody and Melissa Watkins to benefit the Gibbs and Smith families.
More than 800 tickets were sold for the fun, family friendly event which included a barbecue dinner plate, silent auction, bake sale, numerous raffle drawings, corn hole tournament, closest to the pin, kids games, face painting, and a petting zoo provided by Totally Teeny Traveling Farm.
Local high school teens volunteered their time to help with the children’s activities and games.
The Ford Volunteer Fire & EMS Station 2 was present. Kids had a blast exploring the fire engine. Firefighter Luke Kissner commented, “Station 2 is happy to be here to support families in our community.”
Cody Watkins’ mom Susan Watkins shared, “Cary and Ashley Wells started this event four years ago, and it was for the benefit of Nick Watkins our son and Braxton Harmon.”
“We felt overwhelming support from the community, and we’re more than happy to have this happen again at the same venue,” said Watkins.
“For recipients, the money is needed, but it’s an overwhelming and humbling experience to see the community come out and support families in the area,” added Watkins.
The Progress-Index recently featured Heather Gibbs and her daughter Braylinn of Sutherland in the June 2 issue. On March 23, Braylinn was born in full cardiac arrest; beating the odds, she’s been on the road to recovery ever since.
Heather had to undergo a splenectomy due to a splenic aneurysm. During her recovery, Heather developed multiple life-threatening blood clots which caused her to have open-heart surgery to remove the worst of the clots.
Many friends and family members feel a miracle occurred since Heather was given a 25% chance of survival and Braylinn was given a 5% chance of survival. Both mom and daughter continue to improve.
Divided in half, the proceeds also were raised to help the Smith family with travel and medical expenses.
Not in attendance, Kimberly Smith of Amelia was diagnosed with Angiosarcoma in July of 2018 and was treated. Smith is currently being treated at VCU Cancer Center in Richmond; the cancer has now spread to her liver and is very aggressive.
Kimberly’s husband Shannon Smith shared, “I’ll be honest with you...when Susan and Maxwell Watkins came to me and said that we were going to be the second family participating in “Light the Community”, I was really floored.”
Smith added, “Today, I’m just really surprised how the community has come out to support these families. It’s overwhelming!”
Local businesses and individuals donated 90 items for the silent auction and twenty items for the raffle drawings.
J. Severt Contracting Owner Jessie Severt who donated a 9mm pistol and a Winchester 3 1/2 - 12 gauge for the silent auction, stated, “Companies that donate items hope to raise as much as possible for the families. That’s what this community is all about.”
“Light the Community” was formed by a group of families and neighbors to help community members in need.
One of the founding members of Light the Community, Cary Wells, shared, “This event is our second fundraiser. The first one we held was four years ago. We raised $42,000 for Aaron and Lynn Harmon’s son Braxton and Nick Watkins.”
“Our first one was also held at this same venue. At the time, my wife Ashley’s grandmother owned the property. The new owners generously have agreed to continue hosting it at this location.”
“We are hoping to turn Light the Community into a nonprofit and will hold fundraisers as needed. Forty volunteers came forward to help, and it turned out to be another great community event raising an unofficial total of $61,000,” stated Wells.
Heather, while holding Braylinn, commented, “We’re very grateful for all our friends and family who came out in support of our family and the Smith family.”
By Kristi K. Higgins, Staff Writer
Kristi K. Higgins may be reached at 804-722-5162 or email@example.com.