By Joe Whalen
A sign above the entrance to St. Jude's Catholic Church reads, "The Family That Prays TogetherStays Together."
An extended family of community members banded together Sunday morning in the basement of the Havre church for a breakfast benefit designed to help answer the prayers of Kyle Kirkpatrick, a 2 year-old boy stricken with cystic fibrosis.
Sponsored by the St. Jude's High School Youth Group, the breakfast, which also featured a silent auction, raised about $4,400 for medical expenses incurred by Kyle's parents, Jim and Lorna Kirkpatrick, in their fight against the disease that afflicts their only child.
"I guess we really didn't want to reach out and ask people to help us, because we felt like we could handle it ourselves," said Jim Kirkpatrick, an electrician and professional hunting and fly-fishing guide. "But then we started thinking about (the benefit) and realized it was a really nice gesture. There are people here we don't even know, but to see them come out and give us support just shows me that there are a lot of people in this community who care."
The Kirkpatricks recently spent $16,000 on an Airway Clearance System, a vest that vibrates Kyle's chest and helps decrease the tenacity of pulmonary secretions and respiratory complications. But the Kirkpatricks' insurance plan covered only $2,000 of the system's cost.
"It's one thing to be faced with a big cost and know that you can pay for it," said Wanda Allison, a registered nurse at Northern Montana Hospital who manages the obstetrics department and supervises Lorna Kirkpatrick, also an RN. Allison teamed with Stella Willson, another of Kirkpatrick's colleagues at Northern Montana, to spearhead Sunday's effort.
"I decided to help when I learned that their insurance hadn't covered the cost, and that Lorna was exploring other avenues," Allison said. "I didn't want this huge financial burden to add to everything else they're dealing with. A disease like this is such a difficult job to manage. Every day it takes a lot of work. It's not something for which you can just take a pill."
The youth group, which consists of more than 30 local high school students, affixed signs around town advertising the benefit before helping cook and serve pancakes, scrambled eggs, sausage, coffee and orange juice for the function's roughly 400 attendees.
"Our goal has been to help make a difference in the community," said Amy Allison, a Havre High junior. "I knew that our youth group was looking for a cause to support, and this was a great cause."
Items donated by friends of the Kirkpatricks and other members of the community formed the backbone of the silent auction. A painting of a horse by Vernon The Boy, a local artist, fetched $350. Willson's contribution of a cheesecake each month for the next year generated a high bid of $150.
"I was quite pleased with the turnout," Wanda Allison said. "We were originally hoping to have about 200 people show up.All the silent auction items, and the generosity of people, were just remarkable."
During much of the benefit, Kyle Kirkpatrick bounded around the room, visiting with friends and neighbors.
"Kyle looks very healthy on the outside, but there's a lot going on inside," Jim Kirkpatrick said. "That's good, though, because we don't want people to look at him and feel sorry for him and treat him differently than any other child.Some day, when he gets older, he's going to look at his mother and say, Thanks, Mom, for keeping me alive.'"