Friendship leads to fundraiser for family of leukemia victim

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 A fundraiser for the family of Mikala Paulk, 12, who has been battling acute lymphoblastic leukemia for the past year and a half, will be held Friday, April 11 at 7 p.m. at Vineyard Community Church, 15187 Palmer Road in Reynoldsburg, with musical entertainment and a silent auction.

Nobody wants to see a child suffer. But when a sick child is in the family of a good friend, it hits especially close to home.

So when Reynoldsburg resident Donna Marcum learned about Mikala Paulk, 12, of Pataskala, who has been battling acute lymphoblastic leukemia for the past year and a half, she simply couldn’t get the girl out of her mind.

As a result, she has organized a fundraiser for the family for Friday, April 11 at 7 p.m., at Vineyard Community Church, 15187 Palmer Road in Reynoldsburg, that will include entertainment and a silent auction offering items signed by Columbus sports celebrities.

"Her grandmother and I have been friends for a long time," Marcum explained of her connection to Mikala.

Ironically, Marcum’s friendship with Judy Gaberle began when they were both at Evergreen, a program of Mount Carmel Hospice, which provides grief support for children and their families.

"She was a facilitator, and I was the storyteller and script-writer for the puppet shows," Marcum recalled.

After hearing about Mikala’s fight against the disease and the financial and personal impact it had on the family, Marcum felt there must be something she could do to help.

"When I heard about her granddaughter, I was just touched by that story and felt I needed to do the right thing," Marcum said.

 

With her background in grief and children, she was particularly sensitive to the impact the disease had on Mikala’s parents, Tracy and Kyle Paulk, as well as her siblings, Kara, 9; Paige, 4; and Brenden, 2.

"I just thought ‘This is a family that could really use our help,’ " she said. "I could not get them off my mind. I knew I had to follow my heart."

After talking it over with Mikala’s grandparents, Pataskala residents Judy and Jim Gaberle, who are active members of Reynoldsburg United Methodist Church, Marcum decided to proceed with planning a benefit for Mikala.

Tracy Paulk said she is amazed at the amount of community support the benefit is generating.

"I was so surprised," she said. "My mom knows Donna – I don’t. I was kind of blown away. This is just outstanding."

The fast-growing cancer of the white blood cells has been treated with extensive chemotherapy, but the pre-teen is still undergoing maintenance therapy, which destroys any disease cells that remain so the leukemia is completely gone. The therapy usually lasts two to three years.

Between hard work and a tutor, Mikala has managed to stay current on her schoolwork and attends seventh-grade classes at Watkins Middle School.

Although it appears the worst is over, Tracy said the family could definitely use some financial and moral support.

We have two insurances that cover her, but there are still a mountain of bills," she said. "Financially, it just kills you, so when people do something like this you just can’t thank them enough."

But more than anything, it is knowing that people care that has touched the Paulk family. It has been a long year and a half of hospitals, chemotherapy, doctor visits, medicine and other treatments.

Tracy choked up when she recalled her children asking, "So who is going to watch us when you go to the hospital today?"

"Your world just revolves around the doctor, the hospital," she said. "You can’t even let the neighborhood kids come over to play because we can’t let anyone sick in."

Admission to the event is free but donations will be taken to see performers including:

Ryan Flannery – A freshman from Otterbein who will play guitar and sing.

The Walker Family – A family of home-schooled children who are self-taught musicians.

India Franklin, Carl White and Leonard Napper – Two vocalists and a pianist who have performed with Marcum’s "Amazing American Women" historical presentations.

Mark and Chase Potter – Marcum’s son and grandson, as a father-son duo featuring violin, piano and saxophone.

The Watkins Memorial Vocal Ensemble – A musical group from Mikala’s school.

The Pickerington High School North Theater – They will perform portions of their upcoming performance of "High School Musical."

The Apple Core Four of the Singing Buckeyes – A barbershop quartet.

A silent auction will also be held, with items including a football signed by Ohio State Coach Jim Tressel; a souvenir hockey stick signed by members of the Columbus Blue Jackets; a breakfast tour of the Sunny 95 radio station; and home-baked pies.

Marcum said the Vineyard Community Church has been an invaluable resource in helping her organize the benefit, particularly because neither she nor the Paulk family are members.

"I knew that the church did a lot of outreach," she said. "Since I have never done a benefit like this, I simply called them up and they have been so generous with their time and efforts for this cause."

Marcum said she wants to help the Paulk family financially via the fundraiser, but more importantly she wants to create "An awareness of what this does to the families."

For those who cannot attend the fundraiser but would like to contribute, donations can be made to the Mikala Paulk Benefit Account in care of Huntington National Bank, 36 W. Broad St., Pataskala, Ohio 43062.

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