By Jason Starr
The Essex Reporter
It promises to be an inspiring end to a trying year for the Charbonneau family of Essex.
The Charbonnueas will be one of the recipients of a home-grown fundraising Christmas party Sunday at the Knights of Columbus hall in St. Albans. The party is the handiwork of 11-year-old Taylor Reyome of Georgia, who has worked with her mother, Billie, to expand the party’s reach since “Taylor’s Annual Giving Christmas Party” was launched in 2013.
What started that year in the Reyomes’ home as a fundraiser for the Georgia Food Shelf and the Franklin County Humane Society has grown into an annual gathering benefitting organizations such as Toys for Tots, the Vermont National Guard and the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association.
With the Charbonnueas, the event is helping a family for the first time.
Billie Reyome met Jennifer Charbonneau — then Jennifer Fernald — when Reyome moved to Essex as a freshman in high school. Next-door neighbors, Billie would babysit Jennifer and her sister, Michelle. The two had lost touch since high school but reconnected last year through Facebook.
That’s when Billie learned about the family’s medical challenges. Jennifer posted updates about her daughter’s struggles with two rare diseases that have taken her hearing, sight and muscle function and led to a brain surgery after a stroke earlier this year.
Jennifer and her husband, Jim, were living in Tucson, Ariz., when then-2-year-old Ciera began experiencing vision problems. Lacking a diagnosis, the family moved to their native Vermont to seek better medical care.
“My family is here, and we wanted to get back and find out more answers, because we weren’t getting answers in Tucson,” Jennifer said.
At age 3, Ciera was diagnosed with Zellweger syndrome, regressively affecting her ability to hear, see and walk. Now 10, Ciera suffered a stroke in August and was diagnosed with Moyamoya disease. She underwent brain surgery recently in an effort to prevent or minimize stroke risk.
Hearing about the family’s recent challenges, knowing about their medical expenses and their travels to treatments in Boston, learning that Jennifer had to stop working to take care of Ciera, and understanding the effect the challenges have had on Ciera’s younger sister — 8-year-old Bailey — Billie and Taylor Reyome decided to include the family in the Christmas party’s yield.
“She emailed me and asked if she could help,” Jennifer said of her childhood neighbor. “It was very thoughtful. I couldn’t believe she was asking to help us … We are just so thankful for people like Taylor and Billie that help out organizations and people in the community like us.”
All comers to Taylor’s Annual Giving Christmas Party are asked to bring a donation. On behalf of the Charbonneaus, the Reyomes will be collecting gift cards to Hannaford, toy stores and local restaurants, gas cards and personal checks.
The party runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Knights of Columbus hall, 242 S. Main St., St. Albans this Sunday, Nov. 29. More information is available by calling 802-524-5299, or check out the event’s facebook page by searching “Taylor’s 3rd Annual Giving Christmas Party.”