A fundraiser to help three Lower Yakima Valley youth battling childhood cancer will be held Saturday at Karlee’s Koffee in Toppenish.
The seventh annual Going Gold for Karlee Day will raise money for Elias Gonzalez, 17, of Grandview, Cara Onessimo, 13, of Wapato, and Ismael Mancilla, 12, of Toppenish, Karlee’s Koffee owner says , Nettle Dionne. It will take place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the cafe at 280 Fort Road.
It will include tacos and tamales, baked goods, fruit cups and hot corn for sale, as well as t-shirts and four drink specials available in September, Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. A 50/50 raffle is also planned.
And in a new Cafe Against Cancer campaign Dionne launched this year, eight local cafes and restaurants are selling gold ribbons for $5. They are Karlee’s Koffee and Dad’s Restaurant in Toppenish; Lorraine’s Espresso and Fiddle’s Coffee House, both in Wapato; River Canyon Espresso & Eatery in Selah; Grinders Espresso and The Family Company at Zillah; and Dosage Coffee in Sunnyside.
Dionne opened her cafe in honor of her best friend’s 6-year-old daughter, Karlee Jenkins, who was diagnosed with childhood cancer in April 2014 and died in 2015. Karlee helped Dionne design the logo and waited looking forward to the opening of the shop; she wanted to work the window, Dionne said.
Karlee’s Koffee opened about five months after Karlee’s death. Dionne is passionate about raising awareness of childhood cancer and raising funds for children in the Valley who are battling cancer.
“That’s why we’re going all out for these other kids, because the community did it for Karlee,” Dionne said. “She always inspires us.”
Many parents of children Karlee’s has helped donate baked goods to sell, Dionne said. Grandview and Toppenish High Schools, as well as Wapato Middle and Valley View Elementary, are also strong supporters of Going Gold for Karlee fundraising efforts, she added.
A Grandview student who has previously benefited from the fundraiser, Abby Gonzalez, works to raise funds for Elias Gonzalez, another Grandview student, along with Cara and Ismael. A sophomore at Grandview, Abby battled stomach cancer. While studying at Wapato Middle, Abby received support from her school and classmates, and she made blankets and sold them at home football games to raise money, Dionne said.
Learn more about this year’s winners:
• Grandview Student Elias Gonzalez is the son of Letitia Avalos and Hector Gonzalez and a senior who attends online school. He was diagnosed with All Leukemia, a blood cancer, in early May. His treatments are expected to last two years.
He is undergoing treatment at Sacred Heart Hospital in Spokane and hopes to be home by December, according to a flyer shared on Karlee’s Koffee Facebook page. People can send her cards and care packages to Sacred Heart Hospital: C/O Elias Gonzalez, 1028 W. Fifth Ave., Spokane WA 99204-3002.
• Valerie Onessimo’s daughter, Cara Onessimo is a student of Wapato Middle School and a descendant of the Yakama Nation. She was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in her knee in February and immediately began chemotherapy at Seattle Children’s Hospital. Cara had to undergo surgery to have her leg reconstructed with a prosthetic knee.
The cancer has moved to his lungs and the chemotherapy continues. Cara is staying at the Ronald McDonald House in Seattle to be near Seattle Children’s Hospital for her treatments.
• Ismael Mancilla is in seventh grade at Wapato Middle School. He is the son of Veronica and Ismael Mancilla and was diagnosed with leukemia after going to the emergency room with a major nosebleed in late July. He is undergoing treatment at Seattle Children’s Hospital and lives at the nearby Ronald McDonald House.