Causes very close to home led to record donations in this year’s contributions from the St. Clements Tree of Light holiday fundraiser over Christmas. Almost twice what was raised last year for various projects in the community, the Arthritis Society and the Cystinosis Awareness and Research Effort each received $2,638.67 on Thursday at the St. Clements Community Centre, causes dear to three local Wellesley families.“Derek lives just down the street from us and every year his family does a fundraiser, so we knew there was a need there,” said Annette Kuhn of the Paradise & District Lions Club.
“Then the little girl [Gabbie Strauss] who has cystinosis, her grandparents live just outside of St. Clements and the family is familiar to all of us. There’s also Freida Beilstein from Hawkesville and she has cystinosis as well. We decided that it would be nice to help those two charities out.”
The causes and their connection to Wellesley residents brought record sales of light bulbs for the December 7 lighting of the tree.
“This is the best one that we’ve ever had in terms of financial backing as well as actual attendance at the lighting of the tree. We try to do something in the community and this is the closest that we’ve actually come: helping somebody who is actually in the community. I think that really helped.”
St. Clements resident Derek Beam, 11, suffers from juvenile arthritis and has served as a face for the disease in his community and at various events for several years.
“We were totally surprised. It was amazing that they asked Derek to be a part of it. We were not expecting that kind of money at all. What it’s going towards is the Arthritis Society. In turn, that will help with research and education programs,” said Derek Beam’s mother Tracy this week.
Gabbie Strauss of Waterloo and Frieda Beilstein of Hawkesville suffer from cystinosis, a metabolic disease that leads severe organ dysfunction. The research helps children suffering from the rare syndrome, with fewer than 200 cases documented worldwide.
“The funds are going to be a big help. We are definitely grateful that the Lions Club did this. It all goes to research so it helps support coming to a cure and medication. It’s really exciting to have this support from the local community. I was surprised how willing the community was to give. I think it made a difference that the community knew the people involved in the fundraiser and the charities, ” said Beilstein, who helped out with the fundraiser this year for the first time.
The total raised for both causes amounts to $5,277. The very first tree lighting in 2008 raised $2,475 for community efforts. Last year the same group raised $3,674 split between local churches, the St. Clements Santa Claus Parade, the region’s hospitals, St. Clements Ringette, the St. Clements Community Centre, the Diabetes Association and Heidelberg Parks and Recreation and the Lions Club guide dog program, the St. Clements library and nursery school.