■ BY SUSAN ERWIN
Steve and Jill Kaplan, owners of Kappy’s Markets, are teaming up with Boca Grande United States Post Office truck driver Tom Gardner to raise money for his daughter, Heather, a 19-year-old cancer and stroke survivor.
A fundraiser is planned to help with Heather’s medical expenses.
Steve met Tom through the course of his work. One afternoon he asked Tom to wait five minutes so he could get a letter in the mail, and Tom kindly waited. That’s when Steve found out about Heather.
“He mentioned she was very sick, and he needed help with medical bills that were stacking up,” Steve said. “It touched my heart. You do whatever you can for your child. We talked about putting together a fundraiser, and that’s when we thought about this raffle.”
Heather was diagnosed with a form of leukemia in the summer of 2017. She was a junior in high school. Thankfully, it was caught in the early stages, and she went through treatment for the illness. But a bad reaction to a certain medication caused her to have a stroke.
“She had a blood clot in her brain, and they did emergency brain surgery in Miami,” said her mother, Beverly Gardner.
Heather lost the function of her right arm and leg, and she had to learn to walk and do everyday activities all over again.
“She’s doing well, but she has a long way to go to get her strength back,” Tom said.
The grand prize of the April fundraiser includes a two-night stay at the Boca Grande Resort, 3-day golf cart rental from Kappy’s Karts and a gift card to the Temptation Restaurant.
Raffle tickets are being sold now at Kappy’s Markets (north and downtown) and Gilchrist Interiors. Suggested donations for the tickets are $5 each or 5 for $20.
Sharon Gibson, Gilchrist Interiors owner, created flyers that she has posted in her store and around town stating where the tickets are available.
“Steve, Jill and Tom did most of the work, and this was just my small part to help this young lady,” Gibson said. “She graduated from high school last year, and I hear she’s hoping to go to nursing school.”
When Margarita Santiago at the Boca Grande Resort spoke with Steve, she offered a free weekend stay at the resort. The dates are winner’s choice, depending upon availability.
Heather was recently accepted to Florida Southwestern State College (FSW) and said she is still planning on pursuing a nursing degree. She has good days and bad days but always tries to maintain a positive attitude.
“Ill be starting classes in the fall,” she said. “I’ll be taking two classes at the school and one online. I eventually want to work with kids.”
Beverly said Heather’s legs are the major issue of focus right now.
“We need to get them stronger so she’ll be able to walk to class,” Beverly said. “She is doing really well right now … she’s getting to the point where she is able to do some things she used to do. She’s been given a clean bill of health from the Miami surgery center.”
The drawing for the grand prize will take place at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, April 16 at Kappy’s Downtown Market. Come and meet Heather, who will be visiting the island that day and pulling the winning ticket.
You do not need to be present to win. Funds raised will contribute to making her home handicap-accessible.
Due to several surgeries and the cost of treatment, her family has also set up a GoFundMe account to help with medical costs.
For more information, visit go-fundme.com/heather-medical-expenses-and-bills.