by AARON RICCA/The Bee
KINGMAN – Your chance to party can help a family take care of their sick child.
Ten-year-old Kaylee Sass suffers from a genetic disorder that causes chronic pancreatitis and other major illnesses.
Her mother, Stephanie Sass, has organized the Winter Wonderland Ball at The Grand Events Center in downtown Kingman at 6 p.m. Saturday and would like Kingman’s participation in helping her daughter get well.
Kaylee needs a total pancreatectomy with autologous islet cell transplantation, an 18-hour procedure involving more than 40 surgeons and will involve removing the damaged pancreas to save healthy cells and put them into the liver through a catheter. The liver will train the cells to work as both organs. The cost runs roughly $400,000.
This procedure has only been done at four facilities in the country and for the family to cover the costs most effectively, they’ll move to Maryland where they can keep up with a low cost of living but still be within the range of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, where the procedure will be performed.
“They’re considered the number one place in the U.S. for this illness,” the mother said. “I want what’s best for my daughter.”
Kaylee wasn’t present as family members were setting up for the ball. Stephanie said the girl doesn’t want to talk about her illness.
“She doesn’t like the attention and doesn’t like being the ‘sick kid’,” Stephanie said. “All the kids at school were asking if she was going to die and that made Kaylee scared.”
The family has raised more than $8,500 of a goal of $20,000 on their GoFundMe page. They’ve already used a hefty portion on trips to the east coast.
“It’s about $6,000 per trip when you tally in airline tickets, hotels and food,” Stephanie said.
Due to the pancreatitis, Kaylee’s diet is very strict. No fatty foods and nothing cooked in grease, which means the family must stay at a place with a kitchen to cook the proper meals. The family of five often travels together and the price tag adds up quickly. The money raised will also help with moving costs. Sass’s goal is to use the funds to help with shipping their belongings, put down deposits on a place to live and be able to pay rent for at least three months.
Both her and her husband work. Stephanie a pre-school teacher and her husband at a distributing plant. They’re looking for similar work when they get to Maryland and have resumes polished and ready to go.
“People don’t realize how expensive it is to travel across the whole country,” Stephanie said.
Local businesses have already kicked in money to help: Kingman Furniture, Frozen Yogurt Island and Union Home Mortgage.
The Garlic Clove will be preparing food for the ball. An assortment of pasta will be available as will beer and wine and desserts. The event is for those age 21 and over only.
Tickets are $25 for one person and $40 for two and available until midnight Friday at www.tickettailor.com. The website lists the event as being held at Mohave County Fairgrounds but has been moved to The Grand due to a scheduling conflict. Tickets will also be available at the door on Saturday.
Donors can also contribute through GoFundMe at https://www.gofundme.com/kaylee-sass-medical-amp-expenses?fbclid=IwAR1plDWk3N_4VJCL-XvMOdLo_crvrlBnWvYlt5uhaFAM060ZTrAmskUm3vM or can contact Stephanie via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.