For each of the past two years, Sunni Leblanc and Cindy Landry were able to send Brandon Surprenant, 16, to Camp Stand By Me, an Easter Seals-run camp for children with special needs.
The week is one Brandon, who has cerebral palsy, autism and a seizure disorder, looks forward to most of the year and his face lights up when the topic of camp comes up.
“They give these kids the opportunity to do things they wouldn’t otherwise be able to do,” said Leblanc, Brandon’s mother. “He doesn’t want to leave. I pick him up and he’s signing for more.”
But the cost of the camp is $700 for six days and five nights of activities. Last year, the family took advantage of the camp’s fundraiser, selling coffee to raise the money to send Brandon for the week. But this year, the camp was not hosting a fundraiser.
“I said ‘We’ll create a fundraiser of our own!'” Leblanc said.
Leblanc and Landry, Brandon’s caregiver, set out to turn their annual garage sale on the weekend of June 9 into a way to raise money for Brandon, hoping to get half of what they needed.
The pair began to ask friends and family if they had old items they wanted to donate and soon the house was filled with everything from televisions and clothing to a patio set, a trampoline and even an older-model Jet Ski-style personal watercraft.
“They said ‘It’s for Brandon? Just take it,'” Landry said of the donations.
But the generosity did not end with donations. The original plan was to be open for two days until the early evening hours of Friday and Saturday, but people kept coming, following signs that read “Garage Sale for a Cause” and popping out at the house near Bonney Lake High School to ask “What’s the cause?” before meeting Brandon and then purchasing an item or two.
One gentleman bought $100 worth of stuff and then returned with a guitar, strumming in the front yard to entertain shoppers.
“Saturday, our last customer left at about 8:30,” Landy said.
People asked the ladies to stay open Sunday and because items were moving pretty well, and the pair opted to stay open one more day and had customers solid through until 8:30 p.m.
When the ladies counted up their money, they found they had not just met their $350 goal, but blown it away.
“When all was said and done, we calculated the money and we earned almost $2,100,” Leblanc said, adding it was a “humbling” experience.
Leblanc said she had an internal struggle as to promote the garage sale, because she wants her son to have as normal a life as possible, but because she believes in the camp, she went through with it and said the experience was wonderful.
“The generosity from the community made it all OK,” she said.
The ladies decided they would use $700 to send Brandon to the camp and a little more to get him a new sleeping bag for the week, but said they could not keep the additional money, not even in an account for next year.
Instead, the nearly $1,400 extra they collected is going right back tot he camp in the form of donations of tents, sporting equipment and shower curtains.
“It’s all going to the camp,” Landry said.
The pair have also decided to host a fundraiser again next year because of the outpouring of support from the community and wanted to make sure everyone who contributed knew how thankful they were.
“They just opened their hearts and their wallets,” Landy said.
“It was a feel good weekend,” Leblanc agreed.