The traditional warmth of holiday spirit manifests itself in many ways--and not just at holiday time.
Helping hands have been reaching out to 2-year-old Ruby Kahoun and her family since the little girl was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia at the end of October. However now a Zionsville restauranteur, Kirk Gibens, has had the idea to combine the wooly warmth of an Ugly Christmas Sweater Party and silent auction to create a unique fundraiser for the “Just Win, Ruby” campaign.
This story began earlier this fall when, after a month of shuttling their youngest child to and from their pediatrician’s office for a series of viruses and infections, Jenny and Craig Kahoun decided to go to the Indiana University Health Hospital emergency room to get a blood test for their daughter. That was Thursday, Oct. 27.
“I thought maybe she was anemic,” Jenny said. “I just had a gut feeling, or a mothers’ intuition, so I randomly thought we should get a blood test done.”
Right idea, wrong diagnosis.
Within an hour, Ruby was admitted to the oncology floor of the hospital, and the following day, Friday, Oct. 28, doctors confirmed the diagnosis of a cancer caused by defective white blood cells. Ruby also has an abnormal chromosome that increases her risks.
“I thought the word meant death,” Jenny said.
However, Jenny has found medicine has its weapons, though they sometimes seem two-edged swords. Since the end of October, the family has spent every week back and forth to the hospital as Ruby is treated for symptoms of her disease and for the chemotherapy treatments that aim to heal her.
“It’s almost like a battleground going on inside of her,” Jenny said. “She is very tired from the medication, and in pain with mouth sores and body aches. She is bald from the chemo that has killed the rapid-acting cells in her body.”
Jenny said Ruby just started the second phase of chemo. She is scheduled for two-and-a-half years of treatment, with each phase a different variation of chemotherapy.
According to her doctors, Ruby’s body is responding to the treatment, Jenny said. Although doctors call her good response thus far “remission,” Jenny said the family doesn’t like to say the “R” word, because the battle isn’t over.
Jenny said Ruby’s cancer has taken a toll on the family which includes Gracie, 8, and Cody, 6.
“(Gracie and Codie) know what’s going on with their sister. They have seen videos,” she said. “It’s hard for them because we have spent a month in the hospital.”
Now, the family is trying to find “a new normal,” as Jenny calls it, which includes getting the children re-involved in their activities, schooling and after-school clubs and sports. She said it is getting easier since Ruby is now home from the hospital.
Jenny said the whole community has been supporting her family by preparing meals and donating money to the “Just Win, Ruby” campaign.
“I am floored how the community has embraced all of this,” Jenny said. “It’s pretty amazing to see the warmth that people have for you.”
And now Gibens wants to couple the “warmth” of Christmas, specifically Christmas sweaters, to help Ruby and her family even more.
The owner of Oobatz said he first learned Ruby’s story from a customer from New York.
“We took a meal delivery to the family... and decided that we wanted to try to help Ruby by doing something more,” Gibens said.
Gibens said he bounced around some ideas and decided he could tweak his planned Ugly Christmas Sweater Party into an event hat would not only warm people up, but also help a local family. The party is from 5 p.m. to midnight Saturday, Dec. 17, at Oobatz, 1576 W. Oak St., Zionsville.
A voluntary cover charge will be taken at the door and half of the price of all desserts sold on Dec. 17 will go to “Just win, Ruby.” Gibens will also have a silent auction with items from the Indianapolis Colts, Indianapolis Pacers, Fanimation and more. A local Zionsville band called The Party will perform at 9 p.m.
“It’s all about this little girl,” Gibens said. “The more people that show up, the more money this little girl gets.”
The party will also be tied into the Ugly Christmas Sweater Contest, created by Michelle Wade, which is part of the Christmas in the Village month-long celebration.
Wade, who is the CIV event co-chair, said she got the idea for the contest when her brother, Brian Miller of Crown Point, started a website called uglychristmassweaterparty.com that sells merchandise for sweater parties. Miller’s idea was unexpectedly successful and he has since written a book honoring “ugly Christmas sweaters.”
“Initially we didn’t see (CIV sweater contest) tied with a charity, but it is the true meaning of the holidays — having fun and giving back.” Wade said.
Miller will also be at Oobatz on Dec. 17 to sell sweaters and sign his book.
All Oobatz employees will be wearing “ugly Christmas sweaters” and hope customers will join in, too. Photographs will be taken and uploaded to the Zionsville Christmas facebook page. Then anyone visiting the Facebok page will have a chance to “like” their favorite photo. The female winner will receive a $50 gift certificate to Lesley Jane and the male winner will receive a gift certificate to Akard True Value Hardware.
Wade said other restaurants are having Ugly Christmas Sweater parties. Visit www.zionsvillechristmas.com for participating restaurants.
Contributions can be made to the “Just Win, Ruby” campaign at www.justwinruby.com or any Fifth Third Bank nationwide. Checks can be sent to: For the Benefit of Ruby Kahoun, 5930 W. 86th St., Indianapolis, IN 46278. Call Martine Ouellette at 755-8866 or email firstname.lastname@example.org with questions.
Visit www.Caringbridge.org, click visit, and then type in Ruby Kahoun for the family’s blog and updates on Ruby’s condition.