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Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016

Benefit to help build a home for three 'angels'

Friday, September 14, 2012

(Photo contributed) Jaycie, 5, Bentley, 2, and Kennedi Vondrak, 7, of Kingsley, are being honored at a breakfast benefit Sept. 23 to help raise money for their family. Each of the three girls has Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type II and must use a power wheelchair to get around. The benefit is to raise money to expand the Vondrak home to make the girls' shared bedroom larger.
Kennedi, Jaycie and Bentley Vondrak are a trio of energetic, intelligent sisters with infectious smiles.

Kennedi, 7, has a sharp memory and is a social butterfly with an empathetic heart, according to her aunt Emili Vondrak.

Jaycie, 5, is the independent one who likes to sing and even make up her own songs, Emili said.

Bentley, 2, is all about attitude and has perfected her pout, Emili added.

"She's very entertaining," Emili said, laughing.

Despite all of their abilities, none of the three sisters will ever skip down the street or run through a sprinkler.

Kennedi, Jaycie and Bentley have Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) Type II.

SMA Type II is an incurable progressive neuromuscular disorder causing muscle wasting and impaired mobility.

The disease can even shorten life expectancy to adolescence or young adulthood.

The Vondrak Angels Benefit set for Sunday, Sept. 23, in Kingsley, aims to help improve the Vondrak sisters' quality of life.

Kennedi, Jaycie and Bentley live with their parents, Jesse and Kari Vondrak in Kingsley.

The young girls are able to be mobile with the help of their own power wheelchairs.

The family lives in a two-bedroom house, with all three sisters sharing a room.

"It's definitely not a large enough room to accommodate their three beds, three wheelchairs, the medical equipment they need, their clothes and the stuffed animals people have given them," their aunt Emili said. "They just don't have enough space."

The goal of the benefit is to raise money to help build a 16-by-42-foot addition to the Vondrak home.

The expansion will help extend the girls' bedroom to give them more space, Emili explained.

She said the girls like sharing a room.

"They like to be together, and it's definitely difficult for them when they're apart," she said. "Kennedi had surgery earlier this summer and the two youngest girls stayed with my parents. It was easy to tell they miss each other when they're not around. They're very connected to each other."

Jesse, who first met his wife Kari when he was helping move his sister into college, has worked with Chesterman Company, in Sioux City, for about 15 years, Emili said.

"He works a lot of long hours and a crazy schedule," she said. "He does everything he can to provide for his family."

Kari is now a stay at home mom.

She used to work full time, but cut back to part time to have more time at home with her daughters, and now she is at home with them full time, Emili explained.

"Between therapy and the day-to-day needs and care for the girls, it just got to be way too much," she said.

The three girls need help doing just about everything, Emili said.

"They can't go to the fridge and get a drink on their own, they can't pick up something that fell on the ground," she said. "Not that it's a negative, it just takes a lot of physical and emotional energy."

Jesse and Kari put in that energy day in and day out, Emili said.

"They want the girls to have the best life possible, and so they work hard to give them what they can," Emili said.

For a child to have SMA, both parents must be carriers. Even then, there is only a 25 percent chance that a child will be born with SMA, Emili said.

Kari was already pregnant with Jaycie when Kennedi was diagnosed with the disease, she said. The fact that Bentley also was born with SMA was a statistical rarity, she added.

"They are the only three siblings in the state of Iowa that all have SMA," Emili said.

The benefit for the Vondrak family will be a full breakfast meal, a bake sale, a silent auction and more.

"Kennedi designed T-shirts, and they'll have those and bracelets for sale," Emili said.

The benefit will be from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Kingsley-Pierson High School, 322 Quest Ave., in Kingsley.

People can also make donations to the family. Donations can be made at the Kingsley State Bank, in Kingsley, directed toward the KMV Special Needs Trust.

The benefit is being coordinated by a committee of friends and family, such as the driver of the bus for the girls and one of Kennedi's aides at school, Emili said.

"We want to do it to help them, and at the same time we want to help educate people about SMA and educate people about having a life that's different than what most people have," she said.

The committee decided to call the Sept. 23 event the Vondrak Angels Benefit.

"After you get to know who the girls are, they are like little angels. There is just something special about them," Emili said. "They can teach you so many things about life and facing adversity, and they don't even know they're doing it."

Vondrak Angels Benefit

Sunday, Sept. 23

8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Kingsley-Pierson High School

322 Quest Ave., Kingsley

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