Helping Hands Gulf Shores fundraiser Feb. 4 at Big Beach Brewery

Helping Hands Gulf Shores fundraiser Feb. 4 at Big Beach Brewery
By Fran Thompson
Kaysheri Haffner thinks the world could use a little more kindness.
And that’s reason enough for the Gulf Shores Virtual School junior and her friend, Bailey Oldhan, a sophomore, to continue the work that Kaysheri started when she was an 11 year-old student at Gulf Shores Elementary School.
The two 16-year-olds will host a donation drive and auction for Ankitha Valdez at Big Beach Brewery in Gulf Shores on Feb. 4 from 2-7 p.m.
Ankitha (pictured), a 6-year-old sparkplug who her father, Christopher Valdez, described as a fun-loving extrovert, was diagnosed with a serious visual impairment when her parents adopted her from India when she was two. A little more than a year later, she was diagnosed with stage four Hodgkins Lymphoma and in January of 2021, at the age of 5, she was diagnosed with a very rare primary immune deficiency, Bare Lymphocyte. She is currently in remission and has even started back to school in her hometown of Fairhope.
The donation drive will include a silent auction featuring many local businesses, restaurants, and artists. Bidding is from 2-7 p.m., with items ranging from Nick Cantrell artwork, a surfboard from Gulf Shores Beach Supply, Cowbell Rolled Ice Cream, gift cards to Ginny Lane and Glow Yoga lessons.
There will be live music on stage throughout the event, and Big Beach Brewery will be serving up its craft beers at the bar and gourmet food from its Gnarwhal Food Truck in the parking lot.
The girls’ goal is to raise $6,000 for Ankitha and her family to help with their vast medical and travel expenses. An Ankitha Valdez Donation Drive account can be used to make donations at any PNC bank. No donation is too small.
Helping Hands is a non-profit created by kids to help other kids in the community who are truly in need. Its function is to help make life just a little easier for the families. The team has included as many as five students, but this year it is just Kaysheri and Bailey.
Kaysheri said Helping Hands started when her sixth grade science teacher, Julie Rosado, asked her students, as a school project, to come up with ways to give back to the community.
Kaysheri immediately thought of Devon Willis, a fellow GSES student, and organized a variety show that raised almost $6,000 for the then 7-year-old Devan in 2017.
Helping Hands continued by raising $5,000 for Taylor Wilson in 2018, $5,000 for Clayton Ladd in 2019, and a combined $10,000 for Theodore Prive in 2020 and 2021. Those fundraisers were at St. Andrew by the Sea and Happy Pappy’s Coffee House.
“Right from the start I knew this was something that I wanted to continue to do to. It was a lot of hard work at first, but when you get to meet the family and the kids we are helping, it is such a fantastic feeling,’’ Kaysheri said.
Kaysheri said one Helping Hands magical moment for everybody in attendance was watching Clayton Ladd dancing at his fundraiser, and those are the kind of memories that she will always hold close to her.
“When I see the kids’ happy faces, I freely admit I tear up on many occasions. Well, essentially, every occasion,’’ she said. “These families are in a very difficult situation. We try to give kids a chance to be kids and experience happiness and joy.’’
The girls said Melissa Byrd, president of another fantastic local non-profit, Jensen’s Heart of Gold, has always been available to mentor them and suggest kids to help.
Kaysheri, also a surfer, will be going to college next year with hopes of one day becoming a psychiatrist or a writer. Bailey, a solid soccer player and an aspiring artist, said she hopes one day to use her passion for art as a vehicle for communicating and connecting with children to make a positive difference in their lives.
Both girls plan to continue with Helping Hands, even if they have to do it long distance while in college. After six years, it is very much part of Pleasure Island’s legacy as a community that cares. It’s also living proof that kindness is its own reward.
“Feel free to come to our event for a good cause and family fun,’’ Kaysheri said. “It doesn’t matter if you donate a penny or a million dollars, you are still making a difference.’’
More Info: (251) 609-1251, e-mail helpinghandsgulfshores@gmail.com, or kidshelpinghands.wixsite.com.
Corporate sponsors include Realty Executives Gulf Coast, McCarron Insurance, Brett and Kapinsky, Posh Interiors, Diamond Jewelers and Malouf Interiors.