Fairfield Ledger
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Neighbors Growing Together | Dec 6, 2016

Festival to raise funds for children’s nonprofit

By NICOLE HESTER-WILLIAMS Ledger staff writer | Oct 14, 2016
Valerie Kessel

Parents are usually excited at the birth of a new child, as Fairfield residents Alex and Christie Kessel were two years ago when they welcomed their daughter Valerie into the world. However, there excitement was soon accompanied by concern, when their realized Valerie had a chronic illness that very few children suffer from.

“I believe it’s around 200 children per year who are born with this — that’s a pretty small percentage,” Christie Kessel said of Chronic Intestinal Pseudo-Obstruction.

Valerie was diagnosed with the disease as an infant, after undergoing multiple tests, emergency surgery and receiving a variety of medications.

At nine-weeks-old, a central line was inserted into her chest, along with a permanent feeding tube and ileostomy or stoma, which is constructed by bringing the end of the small intestine to the skin’s surface.

Valerie was born Nov. 9, 2014. Christie described the holiday season being spent in the hospital with what seemed like “innumerable” doctor visits.

“When we came home from the hospital, it was very overwhelming and terrifying. We weren’t necessarily equipped to handle everything,” Kessel said. “She was still on I.V. nutrition and we had to learn how to administer it. Neither one of us had medical backgrounds. It was all very overwhelming, but now it’s normal to us, but it was definitely overwhelming in the beginning.”

Kessell said she understands the financial burden and stresses that a family can have when one of their children is diagnosed with a chronic illness.

“We rarely slept more than two hours at a time and it was very hard to think straight,” Kessel said. “Our other two children [Xavier and Vanessa] were in tears every time we had to leave them. The financial burden was significant, but our inability to be together as a family was the most difficult for all.”

Kessel said that she and her husband were fortunate enough to be self-employed, so they launched a nonprofit organization to help those parents who might not be in the same shoes.

Little Superheroes financially helps Southeast Iowa parents with chronically ill children.

“I can’t imagine trying to take enough vacation time for those who are on jobs that don’t have a lot of flexibility — Those are the people who we are really trying to help,” Kessel said.

The organization is sponsoring a Festival of Trees from Nov. 25-26 to help support its mission.

“We really wanted to do something for the community as well — something that families could enjoy together — not only raise money,” Kessel said of the festival. “Come out and attend the event; we’re going to have some really incredible window displays around the square, and a silent auction.”

The festival is from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Nov. 25 and from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Nov. 26, on the west side of the square directly under the Elk’s Club. It will include activities for youth such as crafts, games and other activities as well as a special appearance from Santa Claus.

Donation levels start at $100 by becoming a “Friend of the Festival.” However, Kessel said any size donation is welcome at anytime by going to www.littlesuperheroesfairfield.com or by calling Kessel at 233-7600.

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