In memory of Julia

Ice cream social raises money for family

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  • Photo provided Julia Mae Schweitzer

  • Photos by Vicki Botta Kids line up for games and activities. Macaroni the clown entertains the children.

  • Diane DeWitt and Frances Meek with the raffle baskets.

As families begin to prepare for the new school year and go through the ritual of buying school supplies and new clothes, a community took time out to show support for a local family who lost their youngest child in a heart-wrenching battle with Acute Myeloid leukemia.

An ice cream social was held on Aug. 21 at Camp Akenac in Dingmans Ferry to raise money for her family.

In her relatively short time in this world, two-year old Julia Mae Schweitzer, a precious little girl managed to pull together a community who shared their love, time and donations to give to others who must fight a similar battle.

She showed her special seven-year old brother Matthew how brave he could be to give the gift of his own bone marrow without tears, fear or hesitation to try to save her life. A sacrifice that made his grandfather Sebastian Rapisarva especially proud.

She showed her community how they could be generous and loving without a second thought about the cost or the time taken away from their own profits.

“She was unique to this whole community," said Gayla Garren, the coordinator of the fundraiser. “It feels like the whole community has gotten together to help the family."

Julia, who was diagnosed at five months with the cancer that begins in the bone marrow, had gone into remission but the cancer came back when she was 18 months. She was in the hospital for a year and a half. It was complications from the bone marrow transplant that took her young life shortly before her second birthday.

Her 12 year old brother Jonathan took it very hard, according to her father, Steve. In fact the whole family is starting the process of learning to cope with their loss with the help of family grief counseling.

The family attended the ice cream fundraiser event which celebrated Julia's life with songs and music provided by Annie Craig. Balloon animals were also donated by Macaroni the Clown. According to Gayla several people wanted to do something and they decided to combine efforts.

“I don't think we had to pay for one thing,” said Gayla, who added that everything was donated by members and businesses in the community.

The Forklift Cafe donated 25 pounds of sugar, bowls and spoons. Ice was donated by Dingman's Beverage. Arnolds donated food. Alex's Lemonade which is a separate fund-raising entity and whose proceeds go to Alex's Foundation for Childhood Cancer was on hand.

Local resident Diane DeWitt, Frances Myek from New York and Judy Loglisci of Staten Island bought and donated items for gift baskets which were raffled off to the public. Gayla said that any leftover food was being given by the family to the local food pantry and the proceeds to Miracle Children's Network and Janet White's Children's Hospital of Philadelphia also known as CHOP.

In the wake of a devastating loss to a family and close-knit community, children and their families gathered together on a sunny late summer day to celebrate the life of a special child, being part of a special, caring community and with the hope of helping others. There were relay races, ongoing games, swimming, boating available and playground activities. They hoped through donations and raffle tickets to raise more than $3,000.

People can read about Julia on the facebook page Prayers for Julia and can continue to donate to through either the facebook page or through Alex's Foundation for Childhood Cancer.

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