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Downtown fundraiser Sunday for '05 OHS grad

Girlfriend in trio recently diagnosed with leukemia

Nov. 7, 2012

City of Oconomowoc - Take the opportunity to get a jump on your holiday shopping and support a good cause at the same time.

The "Shop 'n Walk" event offers a special discount by downtown stores to patrons who come in bearing a "Go Vanessa" T-shirt on Sunday, Nov. 11.

The effort is to benefit Vanessa Stock Hood, a 2005 Oconomowoc High School graduate, who was recently diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL).

Hood was admitted to Kenosha Memorial Hospital on Oct. 9, with some chest pain after feeling tired for a couple of weeks.

While in the emergency room, tests revealed Hood's blood platelets were low and her liver enzymes were elevated. An enlarged spleen was causing the chest pain.

After four days of tests and feeling better, Hood was released with what they thought was a virus similar to mononucleosis.

The next morning they were summoned back to the hospital. Additional test results revealed that the cells that had been tested were malignant and that she had Acute Lymphoblastomic Leukemia. The following day, Oct. 14, Vanessa was admitted to Froedtert Hospital at the Medical College of Wisconsin, where she is undergoing treatment and testing in hopes of finding a match for a bone-marrow transplant.

Friends help out

Upon learning of Hood's situation, longtime friends Jess East and Kristin Persick quickly jumped into action and came up with a plan for the shopping event.

All three women met playing basketball for Oconomowoc High School in their freshman year and stayed close throughout the intervening years.

Both stood up in Hood's 2010 wedding as well.

"I asked her to be the matron of honor at my wedding on Oct. 13," East said.

But, sadly, things did not go as planned.

"The week before my wedding, she was hospitalized with flu-like symptoms. A couple of days before the wedding, I said I would feel so bad if something happened and she was all the way up north and got sick," East said of the nuptials which were held in Cable, Wis.

"That was a very tearful conversation," she recalled.

"We got to face time (web chat) with her on our wedding day. What I didn't know was that she had been diagnosed that day with ALL; she didn't tell me until Monday.

"That sparked my need to do something; I felt guilty that the best day of my life was the worst day of hers," East said.

Hood, a former high school athlete who competed in pole vaulting and ran cross country, is also a veteran half-marathoner.

Shop 'n Walk

East said she hopes the event will raise much needed-funds for the young couple.

"It's a hard situation. She is underinsured; that's why we're raising money for her. It's a plea for help to get her through this," East explained.

Through an appeal on Facebook, Persick and East have already initiated the fundraising and have bumped up their total goal.

"We set a goal of raising $5,000 by Thanksgiving. We have already raised $1,800 online, so now we're hoping we can get $8,000," East explained.

"We had an idea about the T-shirts and thought how can we make it more appealing to the community?" East said.

"To make it more interesting we came up with the idea of going to business owners to see if they were interested in giving a discount to people wearing the T-shirt," she explained.

"The response was overwhelming - no one said no," East added, of the business owners they were able to contact.

Thus the Shop 'n Walk idea was born, with shoppers wearing the T-shirt receive a 10-percent discount from participating vendors.

Those participating businesses will have a poster in the window indicating their support of the event.

Participating shoppers will be welcomed at the Gazebo behind The Roots Coffeebar and Café at 11 a.m. to buy their $15 T-shirts, and the opportunity to purchase raffle tickets and $5 bracelets.

"Wear the T-shirt while shopping downtown Oconomowoc to receive special discounts at supporting businesses and enjoy a stroll around Fowler Lake," East said.

Follow your shopping with a break at a local tavern which is helping to support the cause. At 3 p.m., head to The German Bar for raffle drawings, food and beverages. The bar is donating 10 percent of the day's profits to the effort.

In addition, there are drink specials being offered at Breakshots and Bootleggers also in support of "Go Vanessa."

Persick said they haverelied on social media to spread the word.

"Right now, according to Facebook we have between 90 and 100 people (attending the Shop 'n Walk event). That number does not include people who want to buy T-shirt.

"We would love to see upward of 150 to 200 to attend," Persick added.

"There is such a sense of community here. You don't need to know who Vanessa is, but in the Oconomowoc community, we have each other's back. It's very special. I think it's rare to find a community like ours that's always there for one another," Persick offered.

If you go

What: Shop 'n Walk event to benefit OHS grad Vanessa Stock Hood who was recently diagnosed with leukemia

When: Start at the Gazebo behind Roots at 11 a.m. for T-shirt that will give you discounts from participating stores on Nov. 11

Where: Downtown Oconomowoc - participating stores will have a poster

Info: http://www.facebook.com/GoVanessaHood

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