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500 turn out at Ripon benefit for fourth grade brain cancer patient

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500 turn out at Ripon benefit for  fourth grade brain cancer patient

Colony Oak teacher Patty Goeppert, right, is seen with principal Amy Carter studying the silent auction tables at Wednesday night’s fundraising event at the Canal Street Grill.

GLENN KAHL/The Bulletin

POSTED December 21, 2012 12:23 a.m.

RIPON - Some 500 people crowded into the Canal Street Grill Wednesday evening for a two-hour wine and hors d’ oeuvres event that raised tens of thousands of dollars to help the family of a young Ripon girl that underwent brain surgery.

 Riley Simmons is a Colony Oak fourth grader and a top student. She’s also an active soccer player. Her grandmother Sandy Hodges said her granddaughter was an inspiration to everyone by continuing to smile after her surgery that left her temporarily handicapped in her vision, balance and speech.

Doctors were quoted as saying she could probably return to 90 percent of her former neurological capabilities within weeks or months.  Her grandmother added that Riley had given a “thumbs up” gesture as she was going into surgery with continual smiling afterwards while family members were tearful.

Colony Oak kindergarten teacher Sherri Huff is donating her most recent Christmas quilt to help support the family.  As of 7 p.m. Wednesday she had sold some 800 raffle tickets representing $8,000. Her goal is $10,000 for the family consisting of parents Rick and Gina and children Allie, Haley and Riley.

Riley’s dad Rick recounted the last three weeks in an open letter to his family’s supporters.

He recalled that on Nov. 29 they had taken their daughter to an eye appointment where their lives were changed forever.

“As you can imagine, her diagnosis left us completely shocked and devastated,” he said.

What followed was seen as being “truly amazing” when he and his wife heard stories of their friends, family and the community rallying around them and offering their love, hope and support in ways and in volumes that he said they could never have imagined possible.

“We found ourselves smiling again and I knew that we had a source of strength to help push us through these difficult times and come out better for having fought through them.  It feels like the good people are waging war against this horrible disease and that is a powerful thing,” he said.

He explained that those who know Riley can attest to her being a warm and caring little girl who always puts other people’s needs and feelings ahead of her own.

“Even now as she is recovering from surgery and faced with the fight of her life, of which she is fully aware, she keeps smiling, laughing, hugging and loving because she knows no other way.   It’ crazy, but even now, she is helping us get through this.  I honestly feel that her spirit of goodness is bringing out the best in everyone around her,” her dad said.

Rick Simmons said one thing that was made very clear to them is that they have a long road ahead and, as parents, they will be playing an intricate role in Riley’s recovery.

“What makes it less difficult is knowing that it allows us to devote ourselves completely to Riley’s care and recovery and that’s our most important job,” he said. “Many people have told us that helping out makes them feel better.  If that’s true, then our community should feel wonderful and proud of the profound affect they have had on our lives.”

 “Your generosity will never be forgotten,” he added.

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