Tonawanda News

November 29, 2012

Shining lights for a cause

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The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Patty Kabala has a dream.

It’s a simple dream, really ... hundreds, even thousands, of twinkling white lights in the trees and lining the homes of her Kenmore street. And every light represents money going to a cause to help the children of Western New York.

This is the third year of the Moore Avenue Shines campaign, which started Sunday and runs through Jan. 2. It’s a local branch of the Stony Brook Shines for Others campaign in the Lancaster neighborhood, which has been running for five years and has donated thousands to charities from Women and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo to Carly’s Club last year.

Kabala — who loves decorating and in fact owns a business making holiday wreaths — became involved in 2010 after hearing about Stony Brook Shines from a neighbor’s mother. Last year, people at 25 homes participated. Now, she’s just trying to get things to grow.

“We’re just asking our neighbors to put up a string of white lights,” she said. “If we could get it even to 26 houses ... that would be awesome.”

You don’t have to live on Moore Avenue to participate. You don’t even have to live in Kenmore. Just hang your white lights in honor of the season and the effort and send a donation to Kabala at 29 Moore Ave. by Dec. 10. Donations will be sent to Stony Brook Shines to be included in the ultimate donation to Ronald McDonald House of Buffalo.

Kabala didn’t know this when she first spoke to me this week at the Tonawanda News, but I have more than the usual wants-to-help-kids reason to be glad they’re donating to a Ronald McDonald House this year. So here’s our story, one I’ve told here before: 

At 5 months old, my firstborn son needed open heart surgery. We’d known this since before he was even born, but that doesn’t make it easier. The surgery was scheduled to take place at Golisano Children’s Hospital in Rochester. We thought we’d need to drive back and forth (not likely, with an infant in the ICU) or get a hotel for however long Jim’s stay was — from five days to two weeks, if there weren’t any complications, doctors said.

That adds up. That adds up a lot. And we wanted to be as close as humanly possible to him, a further consideration we weren’t really sure how to juggle in the maze of medical information and potential costs. That’s not the kind of thing you want to have to think about when you’re also hearing about all the awful things that could happen to your infant son on the operating table.

Then my son’s cardiologist told us about Ronald McDonald House.

For a donation the fraction of a hotel bill (and actually no one is turned away due to cost) we were able to stay very close to the hospital, in an environment where many people knew all too well what we were going through. In the end, we stayed at the Rochester Ronald McDonald House for five days. 

It’s not overstating the case to say that it was a godsend: a comfortable, quiet place to actually rest away from the hubbub of the hospital. (I have nothing but good things to say about Golisano Children’s Hospital, but no hospital is going to be a very restful locale.) They even fed us a number of times, a well-received break from cafeteria fare. (My husband still remembers the pancakes served to him by a Girl Scout troop one morning as he returned from a long, exhausting night staying at Jimmy’s bedside.)

And there were families who’d been there for weeks. Months. Imagine that. Imagine what would have happened to those families if RMDH wasn’t there. It’s no less true of those at the Buffalo house than the Rochester one.

Kabala, who helps care for her four grandchildren, can imagine it too.

“You don’t know when you’re going to need those services,” she said. “You just don’t.”

She’s right. You really don’t. Things can change in an instant.

So when you hang your Christmas lights this season, consider joining Stony Brook Drive and Moore Avenue in shining for a good cause. Kabala can be reached at 874-5761 or 308-9625 for more information. The Stony Brook Shines website, www.stonybrookshines.com, offers further information and tips on how to safely decorate.

Shine on.

Jill Keppeler is a writer for the Tonawanda News. She can be reached at jill.keppeler@tonawanda-news.com.