Variety lends a helping hand

The 47th annual Show of Hearts Telethon, set for Feb. 16 and 17, is much more than a telethon for the Wacholtz family of Smithers.

The 47th annual Show of Hearts Telethon, set for Feb. 16 and 17, is much more than a telethon for some residents of the Bulkley Valley.

Money raised during the telethon has made its way to Smithers and Telkwa and the Wacholtz family is very grateful.

“Without Variety we would definitely have been hooped,” Michelle Wacholtz said.

Braxton, 13, son of Michelle and Gregory Wacholtz has a condition called Arnold-Chiari malformation, a deformation of the brain which can disrupt the flow of cerebrospinal fluid.

Symptoms of ACM range from headaches, fatigue and muscle weakness in the head and face, to nausea, impaired coordination and in severe cases, paralysis.

In Braxton’s case, the condition wasn’t detected until he was 10 years-old.

“He just had a seizure out of the blue,” Michelle said during an interview, the day before she and Braxton made their 18th trip to Vancouver for doctor’s appointments.

“Six days later he had another seizure.

A CT scan revealed a benign tumour at the base of Braxton’s brain.

Michelle and Braxton  travelled to the B.C. Children’s hospital in April 2010, with the cost of travel and accommodation covered by Variety.

The tumour was removed, but an MRI revealed the Arnold-Chiari malformation.

They stayed until June.

In April of 2011, to try and alleviate the symptoms associated with the Arnold-Chiari malformation, Braxton underwent a four-hour operation where surgeons at B.C. Children’s Hospital cauterized the parts of the brain growing into his spinal column and chipped some bone away to relieve the compression.

Nonetheless, Braxton and Michelle make several trips a year to the Children’s Hospital.

Because of the type of tumour, Braxton and Michelle have made regular trips back to Vancouver for follow up and will continue to do so until 2015.

“It was hard at first,” Braxton said of the frequent trips to Vancouver.

“I missed classes and missed my friends.”

On the positive side, the surgeries have paid off as Braxton has been cancer free for close to three years and symptoms associated with the Arnold-Chiari malformation have disappeared.

“I’m feeling good,” Braxton said.

Variety continues to cover groceries for Michelle and Braxton who can be in Vancouver for up to three weeks at a time.

“We’re proud supporters of the Variety Club,” Michelle said.

“We’re proud supporters of the Starlight Children’s Foundation and Ronald McDonald House.”

For Variety, the Show Of Hearts Telethon is its main fundraising event.

“All of the money raised in B.C. stays in B.C. and goes to families and organizations who need our help,” Bernice Scholten, Variety’s Executive Director said.

“Every year more families turn to Variety for help.

“The more money that is raised, the more that need is met, children who have special needs are given the opportunity to walk, speak, hear, and learn – for the first time in their lives.”