Princesses, Pirates & Pancakes

Cinderalla, Snow White, Elsa, Anna, Tinkerbell and a boatload of pirates! Millville United Methodist Church and the Millville Town Hall played host to the Get Well Gabby Foundation’s fundraiser, “Princesses, Pirates and Pancakes,” on Saturday, April 9. Children ran around dressed as pirates and princesses, while chowing down on pancakes and sausage at the church.

Coastal Point photos • Shaun M. Lambert

Meanwhile, town hall played host to a multitude of games and activities catered to the children. The booths included a ring toss, wand decoration, a treasure hunt in the sand and a prize booth where children could turn in the tickets they won playing games for things like stickers.

Get Well Gabby

The Get Well Gabby Foundation was created in 2012, named after 5-year-old Gabriella “Gabby” Vogel. Gabby had a “spunky spirit” and an appreciation of princesses, swinging on swings, wearing sparkly shoes and the color pink. According to Gabby’s parents, John and Carolynn Vogel, she wanted to grow up to be a doctor-ballerina.

She had just started attending pre-kindergarten when she started having problems with her balance during her gymnastics class.

That led to her being diagnosed with diffuse intra-pontine glioma (DIPG), an aggressive tumor located on the brain stem. Gabby spent just three months at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, fighting the “aggressively explosive” tumor that had infiltrated much of her brain.

According to Carolynn Vogel, most patients can make it from nine to 18 months with aggressive treatment. The only known treatment for DIPG is radiation therapy, and no medical advances have been made for this type of cancer in more than 30 years.

“It’s an extremely rare tumor, as well as not treatable, at all. They can try to prolong life, but there is nothing more they can do.”

After Gabby passed on Sept. 11, 2011, the Vogels decided that they needed a change in their life and moved to Ocean View in November of 2011. Shortly after moving to the area, they decided they would help raise funds and awareness for childhood cancer, and they started the foundation.

The foundation has pledged to raise $125,000 over five years for the Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Children’s Hospital. The foundation has already raised $98,000 toward that goal and is now in its fifth year.

“The money we’ve given them has built a playroom on the oncology floor in the new hospital and is dedicated in the memory of our daughter Gabby and was funded by the foundation. We’ve also helped fund a project for a piece of software that will help with the diagnosis and treatment for children there at A.I. duPont,” said Carolynn Vogel.

“In addition to the pledge to A.I. duPont, we have also helped fund individual children and their families. One of the children, Stormi Grim, has been battling a brain tumor since 2012. We were able to give her family some funding for something that they needed.”

Stormi attended the Princesses, Pirates & Pancakes event, enjoying the food, and then the games at town hall. She was diagnosed with medulloblastoma on May 21, 2012, and had surgery on May 25 of that same year.

Before Stormi had been diagnosed with medulloblastoma, she was in a car accident with her dad, who covered up her car seat during the crash, giving his own life to save hers. She is now being raised by her grandmother, great-grandmother, her cousin “Uncle Bobby Ervin” and, before he passed last month, her great-grandfather.

Her cancer returned in November of 2013, and the doctors resorted to stem cell and bone marrow treatment. She’s been cancer-free ever since. The doctors have given her a survival rate of 22 to 40 percent.

“After all this, she is still smiling. That is what keeps us all going. Her smile and positivity,” said her “Uncle Bobby.”

The foundation gives the families financial assistance for whatever they might need, “A Gift from Gabby.” Some families need help paying bills or gas money.

“Some families don’t even know what they need at the moment. It’s a world you don’t want to ever have to enter. There are times you don’t even know what you need, and when people are trying to offer help, you don’t even know what to ask for,” said Vogel.

Gifts from Gabby don’t always end up being money. They’ve helped families by giving them things they need. In one case, the foundation found out about a boy in Georgetown, Lenny, who was heading to Brazil to see the World Cup through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The family didn’t have any suitcases to make the trip, so the Get Well Gabby Foundation stepped in and made sure the family had everything they needed to make the trip possible.

“We help kids in Delaware, focusing on Southern Delaware, but the good news is there aren’t that many children in Southern Delaware that need our help. The population is such that you don’t have a lot of children getting cancer down here, so we also help in Eastern Pennsylvania, where we used to live.

“When we encounter other children that are fighting cancer, of course it brings everything back to forefront of what we went through with our daughter. We really do enjoy the events that we do. It’s like a feeling in your chest when we go to the hospital and give them that money. It’s this overwhelming feeling that our daughter helped us do this. We just want to try to do whatever we can for these kids,” said Vogel.

The proceeds from the Princesses, Pirates & Pancakes event are going to be donated to the Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children, toward the pledge the Vogels made back in 2012.

The foundation’s next fundraising event will be the Second Annual Skim a Thon at Tower Road in Dewey Beach. For more information about the foundation or their events, visit their website at or send mail to the Get Well Gabby Foundation, P.O. Box 555, Ocean View, DE 19970.