By Sally Hedberg
Special to the Town Crier
Last month, two Idyllwild mothers were running a marathon in Yellowstone National Park. “We started talking about a classmate of one of our boys who has Medulloblastoma or cancerous brain tumors,” said Cheryl Vladika. The other runner, Myla Davis, had just told her about James Bachmann, 12, who is best friends and classmates with her son Levi at Idyllwild School. This news had an immediate impact on Cheryl. When she was 10, her 5-year-old sister, Gia Lagrutta, suffered from the same condition. Hearing about James brought back memories of the emotional and financial hardships her family suffered.
As they ran, Cheryl and Myla laid out plans for a gala fundraiser to help with the mounting costs of James’ treatments. It wasn’t to be just about the money raised, but the idea of getting the whole community involved and raising awareness of childhood cancer. They wanted it to be an evening of laughs, love and friends. And they wanted to invite families and friends of all ages to celebrate the evening with James, his parents Tommy and Kristin and his two siblings.
Upon returning to Idyllwild, they put their plan in motion. Cheryl, who manages the Rustic Theatre, talked to owner Shane Stewart about renting it for the event. Shane generously donated it. That was the first step.
Next was the entertainment. Why not get some comedians? They were able to hire three well-known comedians, Alfonso Ochoa (Comedy Central), Connor McSpadden (Fox TV) and Aiko Tanaka, an actress who appears in the movie “Fast and Furious.” Chris Davis, local realtor, stepped forward to pay the cost.
Another idea was to have a silent auction. Again the community helped to solicit the items. Idyllwild Rotary, Idyllwild Rotary Anns, Hemet Rotary, Lynnda Hart, Corrinne Brown, Barbara Cutter and other individuals went to 35 local businesses. According to Cheryl, “All of them donated something; no one turned us down. Even the alcohol was donated.”
They are still looking for someone to donate a newer, used car as the Bachmanns only have one car, and James needs to go to Anaheim for treatments.
The James’ Village Party is planned from 3 to 9 p.m. Friday, Aug. 21, at the Rustic Theatre.
Between 3 and 5 p.m., guests will be able to bid on the numerous silent auction items while purchasing a beverage and enjoying hors d’oeuvres. At 3:30 p.m., the guest of honor, James, will arrive in a fire truck. From 4 to 5 p.m., Juls Phillips will sing. Silent auction winners will be announced at the end of the first show at 7 pm.
The Comedy Show occurs from 5 to 6:30 p.m., immediately followed by the true stars, James and Levi Davis, in a short ventriloquist act. There may be another adult comedy show at 9 p.m. but that has not been finalized.
Tickets for the event are $20 per person and may be purchased at Idyllwild Realty, Idyllwild Health Center, the Rustic Theatre, Mountain Paws and REPS. If unable to attend, one may still make a donation to a special savings account used only for medical expenses for James at the BBVA bank in Idyllwild. The account number is 6731595850.
Cheryl and Myla are already talking about another fundraiser for James, maybe something to do with enlisting sponsors for their marathons. Cheryl, who just recently met James, said, “He has the highest spirit ever seen in a 12-year-old boy. He is shy but in control. Happy. He is taking on the challenge. I am honored to work with Myla in putting this together. We are both rewarded by doing this and we want to continue.” To keep up with James, visit his Facebook page “James Bachmann Community.”