CHERUBS Ball fundraiser Saturday to help children with birth defects.
WAKE FOREST — When can you dress up in masks and help children with birth defects at the same time? This weekend, at the CHERUBS Masquerading Angels Ball.
Saturday at TPC Wakefield Plantation, Wake Forest based international charity, CHERUBS, is holding a fundraiser to raise money to assist families of babies born with Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia (CDH).
Hidden in an upstairs office on South White Street is the headquarters of the world’s largest CDH charity, which helps more than 4,600 families in 60 countries.
CHERUBS was founded in 1995 and is run by President Dawn Williamson of Wake Forest, who lost her son, Shane, to CDH in 1999 at age 6.
The ball begins at 6 p.m. and features the band Stone Age Romeos, as well as a casino, auction and other entertainments. Formal wear is required and masks can be purchased at the event if you don’t already own one. CDH children who attend often dress as angels, leading to the name of the event.
“Most attendees wear evening gowns and tuxedos but over the years we’ve seen more and more people come in elaborate period costumes, which we encourage,” Williamson says.
CDH is a birth defect that occurs when the diaphragm fails to form or to close totally and an opening allows abdominal organs into the chest cavity, inhibiting lung growth.
CDH affects approximately one in every 2,500 babies, or about 1,600 babies in the U.S. each year. It is as common as cystic fibrosis and spina bifida. Roughly half of the babies born with CDH do not survive. The cause is still unknown.
Money raised at this event will go to help fund care packages for these critically ill babies and families, as well as fund financial assistance, research and to help defray the cost of medical operations.
“We are a big charity on an incredibly tiny budget trying to stretch every penny,” Williamson says. “It is very hard to raise money for these babies when so few have heard of Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia. We are fighting hard to not only support families but raise awareness as well as fund research.
“CHERUBS is the only CDH charity in the United States providing the services that we provide. It’s our goal to raise enough money to keep providing these services so that no family dealing with CDH is alone or without assistance.”
Earlier this year CHERUBS made its mark on Capitol Hill. With the help of U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, grandfather of a CDH survivor, they were able to get Senate resolution 85 passed unanimously to make April National Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia Awareness Month.
A companion resolution is currently in committee in the House, co-sponsored by N.C. Rep. George Holding. CHERUBS hopes that it will pass before the end of the year.
“This is a bipartisan resolution to bring about awareness for critically ill babies,” says Williamson. “It has no bearing on the budget so we hope that by some miracle it will be passed in time. We understand that the country has big problems to sort through but CDH is a tragedy that desperately needs attention.”
The Masquerading Angels Ball is now in its fifth year. It is sponsored by the Wake Forest Area Chamber of Commerce, and a number of area corporate and retail businesses, as well as the families of the following children born with CDH: Hanna Larrison, Brandon Hall, Shane Torrence, Cassandra Carter and Annelise Hallinan.
Wake Forest and Raleigh area businesses also are donating auction items.
“This is an incredible event. It’s a lot of fun and everyone who attends comes back every year,” Williamson says. “We have even had two proposals in past years. It’s just a magical night for a great cause and a chance for us to tell local friends who we are, what we do and why these children need our help.”
She adds, “And as an adult, how often do you get to dress up for Halloween?”
Sponsorships and donations are still needed. Tickets are on sale at the N.C. General Store/Specialty Shop in downtown Wake Forest, as well as online at cherubsangelball.com