Wears Valley General Store goes above, beyond
By ELLEN BROWN
PIGEON FORGE Al Wilson has known 5-year-old Emily Young and her family for just a few weeks but that didn't stop him from heading up a fundraiser at his Wears Valley General Store Saturday to help pay for Emily's cancer treatments.
"They brought a can (to collect donations) into my store," Wilson said. "I sat there looking at it a couple of days and thought, "I have to do something.'"
Nausea and headaches were two of the symptoms that prompted Emily's parents, Joe and Priscilla, to take her to the doctor. A brain tumor "the size of a jumbo egg" was found at the base of her neck, said Kim Matheson, Emily's aunt.
The little girl has already had a few surgeries, and a feeding tube was placed in her stomach on Friday.
"She smiles a lot, and that's a blessing," Matheson said.
Grilled hot dogs, a bake sale and cakewalk, an auction, local singers and even an Elvis impersonator were all part of Saturday's fundraiser at the store.
Dixie Stampede, WIVK Radio and area cabin rental companies, antique stores and bakeries all donated items for the event.
"Pretty much all of the businesses on Wears Valley Road have done something," said Rachel Cimino, a friend of the Young family. "The community has really come together."
Kathryn Rutherford of Heirloom Art Studio gave the event's attendees the chance to win a portrait by purchasing one ticket for $5 or five tickets for $20. Up to six people will win the portraits, which Rutherford said are a $7,000 value.
"Emily came to work with her parents every day," said Rutherford, who is a former co-worker of Joe and Priscilla. "We got to be like family."
Joe and Priscilla own a cabin cleaning company but have been unable to work recently because of caring for Emily. The couple has three other children, Emily's brothers. The family's financial strain is worsened due to the fact they have no medical insurance.
Matheson, Joe's sister, lives in Cartersville, Ga. with her family, but is contemplating a move to Tennessee so she can be of better assistance.
"I have an autistic 13-year-old daughter who doesn't want to leave her school, but the reality is they need help," Matheson said.
Matheson cut her long hair and got a tattoo of a ribbon and Emily's name at the base of her neck. Emily's parents have the same tattoo in the same spot, also on prominent display Priscilla shaved her head.
"God is God," Matheson said. "He can do what he wants to do. There's a purpose for this. She's 5 years old and she's already touched so many lives."
Donations can be made to Emily and her family by contacting the Wears Valley branch of Tennessee State Bank at 286-1540.