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DeKalb Chronicle Article about Benefit for Ashley Kim

Hundreds show for benefit breakfast

By DANA HERRA - dherra@daily-chronicle.com

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Bill Gontko flips pancakes Sunday morning at a Knights of Columbus benefit breakfast at St. Catherine of Genoa church in Genoa. Proceeds from the breakfast benefited the family of 12-year-old Ashley Kim, a parishioner who suffered a spinal cord injury Sept. 12 in a swimming pool accident. (Dana Herra - dherra@daily-chronicle.com)

GENOA – At the slowest part of Sunday's benefit breakfast at St. Catherine of Genoa church, there were still about four dozen people eating eggs and pancakes in the parish hall.

Between the two morning Masses, the hall's 21 tables were packed and the line stretched out the door, according to the Knights of Columbus volunteers running the breakfast.

"This is one of the biggest benefit breakfasts we've had in years," Knight Richard Stading said.

The men packed into the church's tiny kitchen agreed. By 11 a.m., with an hour to go before the benefit ended, they had cooked 90 dozen eggs, more than 100 pounds of sausage and countless pancakes.

"Some benefits are more important than others and really get the community's cooperation," Knight Bill Gontko said.

Sunday's benefit seemed to be one of those special events. Proceeds from the breakfast benefited the family of 12-year-old Ashley Kim, who suffered a broken neck and spinal cord injury Sept. 12 after diving into a swimming pool. The Genoa-Kingston seventh grader, whose family attends St. Catherine of Genoa, was paralyzed from the chest down and is still hospitalized.

"Everybody's concerned about Ashley and how she's doing," Stading said.

After originally being treated at a hospital in Wisconsin, Ashley is now at Shriner's Hospital in Chicago, where she will remain for the foreseeable future, Stading said. Given the nature of her injuries and the state of the economy, Stading said it's likely the church will host another benefit for the family soon.

"They own the dry cleaners in town, and I'm sure with the economy the way it is people are cutting back there and it can't be easy," he said.

The Knights of Columbus decided after the initial news of the accident to make their next breakfast a fundraiser for the family, Stading said, then invited volunteers from the parish to help. More than 40 people volunteered at the breakfast, he said, and among the hundreds who came out to eat, many were from outside the church.

"It's good to see not only our church come out," he said. "We sent flyers to the other churches and put information up on the town board, and the local support has been greatly appreciated."