Havre Daily News
Poems were read, guitars were picked, diners ponied up for auction items and ate sloppy joes - all to support a local family.
About $18,000 was raised Saturday night at a benefit dinner and auction held at the Eagles Club to help Hailey Huestis and her family.
Those who put on the fundraiser called it “phenomenal,” “amazing” and “awesome,” and said they were blown away by the number of donated auction items and the turnout.
“We never expected this, not even close. We thought big, but the community thought bigger,” Hailey Huestis' father Dusty said.
Hailey Huestis was born to Havreites Dusty and Patty Huestis in January. She has Apert Syndrome, a rare birth defect involving distortions of the head and face and webbing of the hands and feet. Hailey Huestis has been in Missoula and Seattle hospitals over the last few months having several procedures, including a tracheotomy to improve her breathing and the installation of a feeding tube.
“She's really doing good now,” Hailey's paternal grandmother, Peggy Huestis, said at the dinner.
She said her granddaughter, who is in a hospital in Missoula, should be able to return to Havre in about a week.
In July, Hailey Huestis will have a surgery to separate the bones in her face and head to allow room for growth. At a later date, she also will have surgeries to separate her fingers and toes.
About 300 items were purchased during the three-hour-long auction, which was run by the Montana Country Poets and Pickers.
Donated auction items included paintings, pies, guns and crafts, and combination packages like a handmade, wooden rubber band gun, which was paired with a first aid kit.
A raffle for a handmade picnic table brought in about $2,200 in ticket sales and the winner donated the table to the auction and it raised another $600.
An anonymous donor gave a foal that brought in $600, a Winchester rifle was purchased for $600 and a handmade quilt raised $500.
“Whether it was for us or not, it was a great thing to see the community come together like that,” said Dusty Huestis, a 30-year-old natural gas compressor mechanic.
“I am about to tear down the Havre signs and put up a Mayberry one,” he added.
About 280 plates of sloppy joes were served. David Molitor, who helped set up the benefit, said they had just enough made to cover the large crowd, but they “had to make a mad dash” to the store a few times to pick up more potato salad and cole slaw.
After the feed and auction, the Montana Country Poets and Pickers put on a show.
Richard Johnston of Chinook read a poem he had written special for the occasion called “Fer Hailey.”
“When days are dark and gray, and troubles seem there here to stay, The outreach of family and friends can be a bright spot in a cloudy sky. Maybe it's just a can of beans, or sometimes upon a shoulder to cry. If someones broke down we stop to lend a hand. It's part of livin' in this great land. To help each other when there's a need, We all get together for a big ol' feed. And whether a fire burns down one of our homes, or medical needs for a baby leave a young couple feelin' scared and alone. We're in it together and for the whole ride, just want ya' to know we'll stand by your side. As for me I'm honored and humbled to be part of this day. Passin' on a tradition of friendship and love, known as the cowboy way.”
“It's not written about a little girl - it's about a community,” Dusty Huestis said.