‘Catholic Kids for a Cause: Fight Like Zayden’ Print
Written by Margie Schels, For the Catholic Herald   
Thursday, Apr. 05, 2018 -- 12:00 AM

Jefferson T-shirts
From left,  St. John the Baptist School eighth graders Isabel Tackman, Ava Gallardo, and Maria Hanson wear T-shirts designed for the fundraising event held for baby Zayden Gess who was born prematurely with multiple medical challenges. (Contributed photo)

JEFFERSON — The Catholic community of St. John the Baptist (SJB) School and St. Francis of Assisi Parish recently gathered to participate in a fundraising event for the family of Zayden Gess, parishioners and members of the school community.

Zayden, son of Jenny and Kevin Gess, was born prematurely six months ago with multiple medical challenges along with Down Syndrome. He continues to be cared for at American Family Children's Hospital in Madison.

As news of Zayden's struggle to survive reached the school and parish community, there were many inquiries as to how to best help and support the family.

Eighth graders respond to challenge

While the parishioners offered prayers, cards, and best wishes to Kevin and Jenny, the Student Parent Activity Committee (SPAC) of St. John the Baptist School presented the school's eighth graders with the opportunity to organize a fundraiser under the mission of "Catholic Kids for a Cause".

The eighth graders were brainstorming ideas for their Lenten service project when they became aware of "Baby Zayden" and his anticipated lengthy hospital stay. They knew that his older sisters are graduates of SJB, and Kiley is currently in kindergarten at the school. Zayden's battle to survive inspired the "Fight Like Zayden" slogan for the March 17th fundraiser, which involved weeks of planning with the help and guidance of SPAC members: Ashley Weisensel, Michele Brusk, Sue Whitstone, and Melissa Gotto.

The eighth graders approached area businesses, requesting donations for a silent auction. Students also designed the T-shirts for the event and organized the activities for the fundraiser, including: basketball games played by fifth through eighth graders; "Silent Auction; "Candy Guess"; "Chuck-a-Duck" for prizes; "Cake Walk"; and "50-50 Raffle". Parents of eighth graders helped with every aspect of the fundraiser, including the concession stand.

Fundraising event

The event began with a blessing of the Gess family by Fr. Tom Coyle, pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Parish.

Following the blessing, the eighth graders, under the direction of music and choir teacher, Tiffany Helt, sang the National Anthem before everyone in the school gym recited the Athletes' Prayer, which is posted on the gym wall.

The rest of the morning was a bustle of activity with basketball games and other events located throughout the school. The fundraiser concluded with expressions of thanks from the Gess family, members of the St. John the Baptist School SPAC, and the eighth graders.

A formal presentation and blessing will take place in early April whereby the Gess family will receive the proceeds from the fundraiser to help defray medical costs for Zayden's care.

The family will also receive a special photo album as a memento of "Catholic Kids for a Cause: Fight Like Zayden."


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