COARSEGOLD – Kidney donor Eric Wynne and his family were stunned by the turnout on Saturday, Feb. 1 at the Coarsegold Community Center, when over 400 people came out to support him, his wife Tina and their family.
The event was called Fiesta for a Future, and community members are determined to ensure a healthy future for Sheila Moreno, who owns Robert’s Frosty in Coarsegold with husband Bobby, and who needs a new kidney.
Organizers planned Fiesta for a Future as an evening of food, fundraising and entertainment to benefit Eric as he prepares to give Sheila the gift of life – one of his kidneys. People came out in droves to support the two couples.
Sheila has polycystic kidney disease (PKD), a progressive, hereditary kidney disorder in which cysts form in the kidneys, causing the organs to become enlarged.
“It was overwhelmingly awesome,” says Tina Wynne, owner of A Village Hair and Nails in Coarsegold. “We had a great turnout with over 400 people, and the money count from that specific night was over $6,000. We collected $3,300 at the door and then another $2,500 through the silent auction and various donations throughout the evening.”
The Morenos and the Wynnes will travel to San Francisco on Wednesday, Feb. 12, then prepare for a busy schedule of appointments that start at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 13, including pre-op, social service and surgical consults. The two surgeries are set for Friday, Feb. 14.
Recovery is expected to be six to eight weeks for Eric Wynne. He has some paid leave along with limited disability coverage, which the family anticipates will not cover the full extent of his recovery. As a small business owner, Tina isn’t covered for the time she will take before and after the surgery to help her husband heal.
“I am missing almost two full weeks of work,” says Tina. “The shop will be open while I’m away away but I personally will not be there from February 12th to the 25th.”
The Fiesta for a Future fundraiser was devised in order to cover ancillary expenses surrounding the surgeries, including accommodations while the couples are out of town before and after surgery.
“Between Sheila and Bobby’s hotel cost and parking, and our hotel for the week that we’re in San Francisco, we’re looking at expenses of at least $2,000 for the trip, not including food or anything extra,” Tina explains.
“Then, there’s another trip later for a post-op check up between the four to eight week mark.” The fundraiser helps with all of the extra expense.
While they’re certainly in this together, once the surgeries take place, Sheila and Eric will progress through their healing independently, with their families caring for them.
“Sheila will have a six month recovery, during which time the doctors will be watching her closely,” says Tina. “One of her medications for just six months is over $500 and we found out it’s not covered by insurance. That’s why we were very blessed when we brought in more money than expected from the fundraiser, because now we should be able to cover that medicine, too. I think it’s all going to work out.”
With the successful fundraiser over, Eric and Tina have something else they’re looking forward to. “As of today Sheila is not well and she is home missing work. We just can’t wait to see Sheila healthy after all this. We wish we could push a fast forward button and get to February 18, when they are home and recovering and everyone’s okay.”
In the meantime, both the Wynnes and the Morenos want the entire community to know just how much the Fiesta for a Future meant to them. Three Coarsegold restaurants came together to help out – Robert’s Frosty, Coarsegold Miner’s Grill and Alphonso’s Hideaway.
“The people from our local restaurants who showed up to help serve were amazing,” says Tina. “Everybody came together in one room and pulled off a gigantic event. We had people come from as far away as Lemore, Fresno, and Mariposa. So in general, we want to thank the surrounding foothills area for the awareness and the support and all of the social networking that people have done for us. Our foothill community was a gigantic part of our success on Saturday night.”
Tina says the event was a reflection of the true wealth both families have discovered in the form of their friends and neighbors. Guests were so enthusiastic that, even though the event was scheduled to kick off at 5 p.m., people began showing up at 4:15, whether organizers were ready or not, requiring a bit of regrouping.
“Albert Figueroa from Forever In Giving [Emcee/DJ Service] was able to set up very quickly and got some background music on,” says Tina. “Then when the room filled up so fast, we had to just put things in motion – a little early.”
Eric was introduced by his wife and Dennis Fairbanks, Madera County Sheriff candidate. After Eric spoke, it was Sheila’s turn.
“Sheila wanted to make sure that she had time to share her testimony and say thank you to everybody,” says Tina. “Then we gathered up all of the restaurant people, all the servers, and the Yosemite High School girls’ basketball team, who were there helping, and we danced! We literally danced the rest of the time.”
Gabriella Figueroa was at the event working with her husband Albert to provide the music, and took all these photographs throughout the evening. She was very moved by the experience.
“It was amazing having all three restaurants working together, it gave me goosebumps,” says Gabriella. “All the basketball girls worked all evening, serving the guests with smiles on their faces. The night was incredible, it was really from the heart.”
Tina Wynne agrees. “The fundraiser is a secondary blessing to Eric and me. It’s not anything we expected nor did we expect such an amazing turnout. The main purpose is making sure Sheila Moreno is here for a long time.”
Click here to read the story of how Eric came to offer this life-saving gift.
(Click on images to enlarge)