Six years ago, neighbors Heather Banaszek and Krista Gawronski started raising money for local causes: a woman who’s husband had died, Danny Cox, the Petaluma teen paralyzed in a diving accident, a woman struck by a car.
The group was called the Fabulous Women and since forming in 2006, they have gone on to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars by hosting social events centered on getting the community to give.
Little did they know that one day one of their own children would need the community’s help.
That day came about a month ago when Banaszek’s 11-year-old son, CJ, a fifth-grader at , came home with a nosebleed that would not stop. Scared, Banaszek took him to the emergency room. The doctors stopped the nosebleed and CJ returned home and went to sleep.
But at 1:30 in the morning, there was a knock at the door. When Banaszek answered, she found a Petaluma police officer telling her that CJ had to go back to the hospital immediately. When they arrived to Petaluma Valley Hospital, the doctors informed Banaszek that her son’s white blood cell count was 25 times higher than normal and that he had leukemia.
“It was completely surreal,” recalls Heather Banaszek. “I could not believe that it was true. It was total and complete shock and for the first five to ten minutes I couldn’t even get up. It was the worst 24 hours of my life.”
Since that life-changing night, CJ, who loves soccer, basketball and is described by adults as an “old soul," has spent the past month undergoing chemotherapy. But in order to cure his leukemia, what CJ really needs is a bone marrow transplant.
To help, the Fabulous Women are organizing a donor drive for CJ scheduled for Saturday, April 7 at the . The event will include a tennis tournament, a raffle with prizes including winery trips and Giants tickets, food and music. But most importantly, the Fabulous Women are asking as many people as possible to get a cheek swab to see if they could be a potential donor for CJ, who has been diagnosed with Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia.
Only one in 1 million children between one and 10 years old are diagnosed with CML and the Banaszeks have launched a "One in One Million" campaign to help their son.
“This will of course help CJ, but it’s also for everybody else who is in the database (and waiting for a donor),” says Gawronski, who owns
If a match is found, the donor’s blood will be drawn and the bone marrow “transplanted” into CJ. “For the donor, it’s similar to a feeling of having worked out really hard,” says Gawronski. “But to be able to save a life is tremendous.”
The Donor Drive for CJ Banaszek will be held Saturday, April 7 at the Petaluma Valley Athletic Club 12-6pm. There will be a tennis tournament, a barbeque, a jumpy house, a silent auction and food! For more information, visit petalumawomen.com