MIAMI – Carter Grassold at just six years old has had to fit a lifetime of experiences into his few years, but you would be hard-pressed to tell the way he tilts his ginger topped head thoughtfully or plucks through his favorite Angry Birds. He's all boy and all kid.
Born with Auto Somal Recessive Polycystic Kidney Disease (ARPKD) young Carter will undergo a kidney transplant Jan. 8 at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri, with his dad, Ray, the living donor.
Homeschooled due to the importance of keeping his immune system protected, Mom Brandi explains that Carter is a very focused young man who likes his routines.
Ever present on his mind are also his two older siblings, sister Emily, and brother Wyatt. He never forgets them no matter what is going on. If Cater sees or gets a hold of something, it's a top priority they get to share too.
Now he and his family are in the final stretches of preparing for their big day Jan. 8, and it's understood there is so much ahead to manage physically, emotionally and financially. The upside is the operation should have a significant impact on Carter's longterm health, but it will take a heavy toll on time and resources. Something everyone in Carter's loving circle, although daunting, is not in the least hesitant to face.
Following the transplant, Carter will spend 10 to 14 days in the hospital followed by a two to three week recovery period in a special apartment at Ronald McDonald House where he and dad will recuperate.
It's a lot, but thankfully there is now the added benefit of some gang muscle in Carter's corner. 'The Gang with the Paddles' that is. A network of regional in-home businesses and crafters headed by Twyla Stanley Yandell that pool their time and resources through monthly Paddle Parties to benefit groups or individuals in need like Carter.
Yandell, of Quapaw and a four-decade independent distributor at Tupperware, is the vibrant and mission-focused founder of the 'gang,' and also a long-time friend and neighbor of Carter's grandmother, Brenda Crabtree.
"I've always been a mission type person with my Tupperware," said Yandell. "I said to Brenda, "When this is all done, when this is in the books for the transplant, please let us help you.'"
Yandell said Crabtree was reluctant at first, stressing she and her family were "Never about a pity party," but was able to convince her friend and Carter's parents that was not what the gang paddle parties were about.
"I tell whoever we get involved with that they have a part in it too," said Yandell. "We furnish the room, the vendors, and the stuff. What we expect from them is to help pull items in for the silent auction and make sure family, friends, and neighbors are aware and get involved. We have expectations of them, just as they do of us."
Yandell's paddle parties are many things - a way for regional business owners to network and gain market presence, while also giving back to community members in need.
The events are an auction type affair where attendees not only get to shop some of their favorite products but bid on items donated by the vendors (a minimum of two items with a value of at least $15) with quarters. Meaning a chance to take home something they love for a fraction of its original cost.
The way it works is the first numbered paddle is purchased for $5, and each additional paddle is then only $2 each. Attendees get to bid on auction items by placing one quarter in a bucket for each paddle they hold up in a bid. If your paddle is up and your number is drawn, you win the item.
There is also a silent auction where items donated by community members, other business and organizations are bid on through the evening.
The proceeds from the paddle purchases, silent auction, and often what is also collected in quarters, is then given to the group or person selected for the benefit.
Yandell pointed out not all paddle parties are organized the same way and felt it was important for the community to understand that what she and the gang do is not about turning a big profit for the vendors or anything related to gambling.
"What I always tell people who have questions is that none of us are making some kind of fortune doing these," said Yandell. "And this is not gambling. I don't gamble... I tell people that whatever they are selling or bringing in must be appropriate for a church. We do this at a church, and if they wouldn't bring it to church, it doesn't belong there."
Carter's Paddle Party will be held at the All Saints' Episcopal Church, 225 B ST NW in Miami with doors opening at 6 p.m. and the auction beginning at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 19.
Vendors at Carter's Paddle Party will include Tupperware, Damsel in Defense, Scentsy, Mary & Martha, JJ Boutique, Perfectly Posh, Usborne Books, Thirty-One, Young Living Essential Oils, Tastefully Simple, Pampered Chef, Java Mama and more.
For more information, those interested in Carter's event or 'The Gang with Paddles' can call Yandell at 918-541-5938.
Dorothy Ballard is the managing news editor of the Miami News-Record. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @dm_ballard.