ANGOLA — A garage sale planned July 18-20 at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 7205, 2013 N. Wayne St., will benefit the families of two girls going through serious medical issues.
Jessica Knickerbocker, whose infant daughter Nomalee “Molly” Gregory, has been through two surgeries to remove internal tumors, is a member of the VFW auxiliary.
The proceeds of the sale, which will be open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. all three days, will assist Nomalee and the family of Conlei Walworth, 12, a sixth-grader at Prairie Heights Middle School, undergoing treatment for cancer in her spine.
Knickerbocker is a member of the VFW auxiliary because a number of her male relatives served in the military.
Eligible VFW members are soldiers in good standing, current or retired, who served in a war, campaign or expedition on foreign soil or in hostile waters. Auxiliary members must be at least 16 years old and have an immediate family member eligible for VFW membership.
“More than 470,000 members in nearly 3,800 auxiliaries across the nation work to improve the lives of veterans, active-duty service members and their families, and their communities in a variety of ways,” says the VFW web site.
The Angola VFW works in just that way.
“When we got back from the hospital, the VFW was one of our first stops,” said Knickerbocker. “I walked in to pictures of our family and Nomalee at the cash register, rotating on the information screen, on donation buckets and ticket boards, even in the bathrooms.”
Knickerbocker speaks of the VFW as if it were family.
“It’s funny, but it was where Miles (Gregory, Nomalee’s father) and I had one of our first dates,” she said. “They helped me through my pregnancy, celebrated with me at my baby shower and visited us in the hospital when she was born. The day we found out that she was sick, they started finding ways to help us — prayers, cards, fundraisers, care packages.”
Sheila Eaton of the VFW encouraged people to donate items to the garage sale. Knickerbocker, local veterans and their families have already pledged a good stock that includes bunk beds, dishes and holiday trimmings.
Those who wish to provide donations may do so by contacting the VFW at 668-0726.
Eaton also encouraged locals to stop, shop and support two families in need.
“They’ve been with us from the beginning,” said Knickerbocker. “Everyone there, from the commander to the veterans and members, the bartenders and cooks — even the pool teams — have rallied for us.”
At not even a month old, Riley Hospital for Children doctors diagnosed Nomalee with a retroperitoneal immature teratoma with yolk sack malignancy. It is a rare type of tumor with less than 20,000 cases diagnosed worldwide a year.
On May 23, at 7 months old, Nomalee had her second major surgery to remove new tumors that had formed. Not all of the tissue could be taken out, and the family was told it is likely more tumors will develop. Friends and supporters get updates on a Facebook page titled Boss Baby.
The Walworth family started a page called Courage for Conlei. She was diagnosed May 30 with cancer in her spine, and possibly also in her brain. At this time, she spends her weeks in Cincinnati undergoing treatment and weekends at home in northeastern Indiana, where her favorite pastime is fishing.
Conlei’s mother, Jill Engel-Walworth, said her family has been very blessed with strong local support, including the proceeds from this summer’s Little John’s Lemonade Stand on Lake Gage.
This year’s Liv It Up block party in downtown Angola benefited Conlei and Nomalee.
Now, the VFW is doing its part.
“They are some of our biggest cheerleaders. They are home,” said Knickerbocker. “It feels like they helped raise me, now they are helping me raise my own family. We love them more than words.”