Group gathers for St. Jude

Published 12:01 am Monday, August 22, 2011

Fingers were pointing for a good cause Sunday night at The Castle during the benefit for St. Jude Children’s Hospital. Karen Stubbs, center, found herself in the crossfire of some of that pointing as auctioneer Clyde Ray Webber, right, points to Dr. Ken Stubbs, left, who was pointing to raise his bid. Money raised in the auction went to St. Jude. (Ben Hillyer | The Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ — It’s not unusual for people to flock to the Castle Restaurant at Dunleith Plantation for a nice dinner filled with wine, appetizers and dessert, but on Sunday night, a crowd of 85 was there to do more than satisfy their palates.

The group came together to raise money for the only Pediatric Cancer Center designated by the National Cancer Institute — St. Jude Children’s Hospital.

The hospital has been open since 1962 offering children help from catastrophic diseases, and they receive funding through donations from people and groups that want to give back

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No one understands just how important St. Jude is like Wray and Jennifer Eidt.

Six years ago their daughter Julia was diagnosed with a form of leukemia, but thanks to help from St. Jude, she has remained in remission since her last round of chemotherapy five years ago.

“Julia’s better, but now it is time to help others,” Wray said. “We received help from them in our time of need, and now it is time for us to pay it forward so other people out there can get the same help.”

Julia is 8 years old now, and for the fifth straight year Natchez residents have come together to raise money in her honor for St. Jude.

“It gets better every year,” Wray said. “It is incredible to see so many people come out to support a good cause.”

The crowd gathered to eat dinner, and also to bid on 24 packages at a silent auction that were all donated to the event to help raise money.

Packages had items ranging from a Greg Iles autographed book, a Jazz dinner cruise for two and even a tickets to a Louisiana State University football game.

Lyn Fortenbery with Dunleith said there was one item up for auction that stands out above the rest.

The last item up for bid every year at the auction is a silver platter that will be given to Julia when she turns 18, Fortenberry said.

“Every year, the person who bids the most and gets the platter has their name engraved on the back of it,” she said. “That way when Julia gets it when she’s 18, she will be able to see all the people who have donated over the years.”

Jennifer said while her family no longer resides in Natchez, she always knows it will be home.

“We are always honored to come here and feel the hospitality from everyone,” she said. “This is truly an exciting event, and we hope to continue it for many years.”

Natchez residents Rossi and Phyllis Copeland said they felt privileged to be able to come out to The Castle to raise money for St. Jude.

“It’s a wonderful hospital, and the work they do for children is inspiring,” Rossi said. “We always try to give what we can to help such a great cause.”

Jennifer said Julia wasn’t able to attend this year’s fundraiser due to a school project, but she knows her daughter would be honored to see everyone who came out.