JOLIET – They had no idea so much work had gone into it.
That was the impression of the members of this year’s Joliet West National Honor Society when they reviewed the 100 pages of notes from last year’s first Tiny Tiger fair.
Those students had conceived and led that event to assist three area children battling life-threatening diseases. Still, as the current officers prepare to host it again this year, senior Franchesca Alejo of Plainfield, NHS co-president, brushes aside any lauds bestowed on their efforts.
“The families are appreciative but they don’t understand,” Alejo said, “We’re just so honored that they let us hold this event for their children.”
The students raised $6,000 last year, said Janice Sheehan, advanced placement literature teacher and Joliet West NHS sponsor – twice the initial goal of $1,000 for each child. The students have not set a goal for this year, only to raise as much as possible.
“Last year was my first year [as sponsor],” Sheehan said. “When the kids came to me about the fair, I took a deep breath and said, ‘OK.’”
Sheehan said she provided only consultation and advice. The students did all the work.
“I can’t begin to tell you the hours and hours they put into it,” Sheehan said, “everything from designing the T-shirts to forming the committees to running around and getting donations.”
Alejo and her co-president, senior Alex Paramo of Joliet, had worked last year’s Tiny Tigers Fun Fair. Alejo had overseen the obstacle course; Paramo ran the coin table. Both agreed experience alone did not prepare them for the undertaking. Last year’s notes are a big help.
“They took a lot of the grunt work out of it and we really appreciate it because we’re not totally new to it,” said junior and co-president elect Alec Graff of Joliet. “We can perfect it from here.”
Graff inventoried leftover materials, wrote an article for the school newspaper to promote the fun fair, and reviewed and edited all marketing materials. Despite their organization and planning, the students stressed only community support will make the fun fair a success, whether that happens through monetary donations, prizes for raffles and silent auctions, or attending the day of the event.
Admission, Alejo said, is free. Patrons will pay for games, food (hot dogs, chips, candy, nachos, popcorn, water, pop), T-shirts, batting cages, nail and face painting, crafts and, of course, the raffles and silent auction.
“We will also take donations at the door,” Alejo said.
Other event features include costumed characters (Mickey Mouse, the Easter Bunny, the Joliet West Tiger and more) at every turn, students and “bouncies,” which the students feel are kid magnets. Children may also add their “paw prints” to a large banner. Last year after the event, students hung the banner at school.
“We’re emphasizing the fun,” Paramo said. “Even if people can’t spend a bunch of money, we want all the kids to have fun and know it’s a special day just for them.”
This year’s “Tiny Tigers” are:
• Henry Fink, 9 months, of Braceville. Henry was born with a coronary artery fissure and a dilated coronary artery, said his mother Abbey Fink of Braceville. On Feb. 7, Henry underwent open heart surgery to repair the fissure. Henry is currently on aspirin therapy to prevent blood clots, Abbey said.
He will require periodic monitoring with sedated CT scans. Challenges for Abbey and her husband Tyler are mounting medical bills and frequent separations from their older son, Levi, 2. Abbey calls Henry, who is always smiling and laughing, “my hero.”
• Noah Galloy, 4, of Plainfield. Noah was born with an immune deficiency – IL-12 Beta 1 Receptor Deficiency – so rare that only three identified cases exist in the world, said Jennifer Galloy of Plainfield, Noah’s mother and English and journalism teacher at Joliet West High School. Noah’s brother Brayden Galloy, 12, is one of the three but his deficiency is not as severe, she said.
Two years ago, Noah acquired an infection called Atypical Mycobacteria Avium Complex (MAC infection), which shut down his organs, Jennifer said. Noah became the first person in the world to be identified with both the immune deficiency and MAC infection, she said.
Anyone with an infection as severe as Noah’s has not survived, Jennifer said. Noah did have a stem cell transplant but the graft failed and he’s back on the transplant list, Jennifer said. She has since learned her husband, Ryan Galloy and she are both carriers for the syndrome, which can run in families.
• Arick Walker. According to a news release from Joliet West High School, Arick, son of Rick and Kristi Walker, was three months premature when he was born Aug. 18. Since then, Arick has undergone three surgeries – intestinal, hernia and heart – and even battled a leg infection.
If You Go
What: Tiny Tigers Fun Fair
When: 3 to 6 p.m. April 6
Where: Joliet West High School, 401 N. Larkin Ave., Joliet
Etc: Event will be held in the cafeteria. Food, carnival-style games, face painting, craft-making, raffles, silent auction. Donations welcome. Limited quantities of T-shirts available. All proceeds benefit two area families.
For information: Visit tinytigers.weebly.com