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Chili fest fund raiser in sight of $5,000 goal

By Staff | Apr 10, 2011

A charity chili festival, which was held by the VFW and VVA Saturday afternoon, successfully raised money for a Cape Coral resident who has cystic fibrosis.

Jodi Johnson said they received $900 before the festival took place Saturday afternoon from various generous donations. A little over an hour after the festival kicked off, between $1,500 and $2,000 was made with the silent auction and at least another $1,000 was collected from general donations and chili tasting donations.

“The festival came together real smooth,” Johnson said, adding that they also received a lot of help. “It’s been awesome.”

The chili festival featured 10 different recipes for individuals to taste and vote on Saturday while listening to seven bands play music inside and outside throughout the event. A dunk tank, bounce house and obstacle course were set up behind the VFW for everyone to enjoy.

“I think things are going really well,” Carl Adams said Saturday afternoon.

He expected a good push of people between 3-4 p.m. due to Bike Night taking place in downtown Cape Coral. Although the festival was scheduled to end at 5 p.m. Saturday night, Adams said they “will shut down when the people leave” no matter how late it was.

“It’s all for Sara,” he said.

Sara Steinhauer, 26, was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis after she had a sweat test done during a doctor’s checkup when she was 6 weeks old ; she was losing weight although she had a healthy appetite.

The disease causes a thick, sticky mucus to form in an individual’s lungs that blocks the airways and can clog pathways that lead to the digestive system in the pancreas, along with affecting other organs.

At age 5, Steinhauer had her first surgical procedure done to implant a feeding tube and a port line in her chest for medical needs. She then received a double lung transplant in 2009, which her body later rejected in 2010. Her second transplant was done in September 2010 with only one lung.

Her father Bob said within a month Sara had to have a second lung transplant done. He said she can live a relatively healthy life with only one lung.

“She is still with us,” he said with a smile, adding that she is his hero.

After Sara’s doctor agreed to releasing her from the hospital in Gainesville for a day, the family joined the festivities Saturday. Some of her family from Wisconsin flew down for the event as well.

Bob said since her doctor understands quality of life, they were able to bring her home from the hospital Friday night and will bring her back after the festival was over on Saturday.

“She really wrapped her arms around this,” Bob said about the festival, which was why they brought her home for the night.

Sara said the event means awareness for cystic fibrosis because there is not enough information out there about the serious disease.

“Anybody that is an organ donor is awesome,” she said. “If I didn’t have a chance to get an organ I wouldn’t be here.”

Sara said she was so happy the event could happen because she has never had something like that happen to her before.

Sara has been in the hospital for 22 days, Bob said, due to severe reflex issues with her digestive system. He said her condition is always evolving and ongoing.

“Her mom and I have never considered doing this,” Bob said about the charity event. He said they provide her with what she needs and “what we don’t have we don’t have.”

Lonnie, her mother said she was happy to see so much community support for Sara.

Beverly Benkhatar, a friend of the family of five years, said the festival was wonderful.

“Anything you can do for Sara is wonderful,” she said.

Bea Lehne also thought the event was fabulous, adding that she was glad she had the chance to meet Sara on Saturday. She said it was heart breaking to learn of Sara’s condition.

“The VFW is doing a good job,” Lehne said about the event. “They are always there for anyone in need. They never stop and I am proud of each and every one of them today. God bless every one of them.”

She said she prays that they raise at least $5,000 for Sara and her family and encourages anyone who wishes to donate to come forward.