Passion for compassion

From lemonade stand to fundraiser Westfield duo’s vision to serve is contagious

 

The drizzling rain and near 45-degree temperature did not dampen the energy or discourage two of Westfield’s youngest philanthropists. The H&M fundraiser that Peighton Isley, 9, and Olivia Johnson, 10, had spent months planning and promoting kicked off at 5:15 p.m. Oct. 19.

The event honors two younger girls who are fighting equally rare diseases. The members of the Isley and Johnson families all agreed that the event would not be canceled.  Their reasoning for continuing the event: If those girls could fight horrible diseases, they could stand the rain.

Peighton’s eyes sparkled behind pink-rimmed glasses as she enthusiastically handed out bumblebee-striped bracelets with “H and M Fundraiser” written in pink letters. Olivia stood by with her arms tucked under her black afghan to keep warm. She, along with her friend, had poured hours of work into planning the event.

The “H” in H&M stands for Henley Romine of Carmel. She was diagnosed with Stage IV High Risk Neuroblastoma in August 2010. Initially, she received treatments at Sloan Kettering hospital in New York. Now she has turned to Dr. Giselle Sholler in Grand Rapids, Mich., where Henley recently had aggressive treatments.

Likewise, the “M” is for 4-year-old Morgan Oisten of Noblesville.  Diagnosed at 8 months with Neonatal Onset Multisystem Inflammatory Disease, Morgan is one of two Hoosiers fighting the disease. Since she was 10 months old, Morgan has received an injection of Kineret to stave off the genetic inflammation and allow her to grow and function.

This fundraiser wasn’t the only way that Peighton and Olivia have reached out to the two girls. For the past year they have worked together to serve lemonade and never discussed the possibility of dividing the money between each other.

“Any chance that they get they want to get out there and do a lemonade stand,” said Kelly Isley, Peighton’s mom. “It has, without question, always been a given that when they have a lemonade stand they put the money in their jar and present it to Henley and Morgan.”

The idea for the recent fundraiser was first formed on a sunny spring day while Peighton and Olivia were selling lemonade. Halfway through the afternoon they came running to Olivia’s mother, Emily Johnson, with their plan.

“Their enthusiasm was so contagious,” said Emily. “I was excited for them. They were just beaming.”

The idea gained momentum. The girls used the profits from the lemonade stand to buy a binder and other supplies to start their planning. They worked full force to make the event a reality.

A creative color scheme came out of their brainstorming: black, yellow and hot pink. The black and bright yellow stood for Henley’s nickname “Brave Bee” and hot pink added to represent Morgan’s favorite color. Mike Oisten, Morgan’s father, created a logo joining the first letter of both girls’ names and combining the three colors.

By midsummer the girls had everything done. Even Steve and Tammy Rodgers, Peighton’s grandparents and partners in Stuart’s Steakhouse, had made plans of providing dinner at the fundraiser. It was evident to their mothers that the girls had the idea in their heads, and it was going to happen. So they all sat down to discuss a date.

“They were very decisive. They had a vision. . . and worked very well together,” Emily said.

Emily and Kelly said that the girls thought through every aspect of the event. While they helped where they needed to as adults, the marketing ideas, crafts, race, walk and scavenger hunt came from the girls brainstorming.

The girls rallied friends and acquaintances in a collective effort to create crafts, bake treats and draw a map for the scavenger hunt. Even some members of Morgan’s family brought crocheted hats and scarves to sell. More assistance came through babysitters and neighborhood friends. It took a huge team.

Reflecting on the whirlwind of events that brought them to the event date, Johnson and Isley are amazed. Community support was strong with a turnout of more than 100 adults and kids.

“There were several names on the registration that we had early that were here, in the rain, to give of their time and be here to support not only Henley and Morgan, but Peighton and Olivia as well,” Kelly said.

The members of the Romine and Oisten families attended the event as well, bringing Henley and Morgan with them. This was the first time meeting for the two families. As the parents introduced themselves, Morgan and Henley exchanged a smile and a hug.

Peighton and Olivia asked the families to speak to participants about their journies. Both fathers shared their little girls’ stories.

“The doctors said [Morgan’s] legs were never going to be straight,” Oisten said of his daughter who now is walking like any other little girl.

“We are truly blessed by the love and support that we get,” said Grant Romine, Henley’s father. “We trust in God and where he leads.”

For Peighton and Olivia, the event was a success. The best part for Peighton was probably the scavenger hunt and getting the candy ready.  Johnson enjoyed planning the event and thinking of the two girls.

“We hope to get more money so we can donate [it] to them,” Olivia said.

“For their medical bills,” Peighton added.

To those who were unable to attend the H&M event but still want to donate, contact Kelly Isley at 523-5634 or Emily Johnson at 376-9035 to find out how to make a donation. Contributions from the event went to the NOMID alliance and the Romine family for medical bills.

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