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Valley with a Heart poster children to make appearance at annual event

The Citizens' Voice - 9/2/2023

Sep. 2—The Valley with a Heart Benefits charitable organization has a long-standing motto that reads "We do it for kids."

This year, its signature fundraiser — a motorcycle ride and daylong concert — will help a little girl from Kingston with a heart condition and a child from Hanover Twp. with cerebral palsy.

Valley with a Heart donates thousands of dollars each year to help those in need, mostly sick children. Much of its money comes from its annual Labor Day weekend event, which is slated to be held Sunday at the St. Faustina Grove in the Sheatown section of Newport Twp.

"We started it 22 years ago for a little girl. She wrote a nice thing in her diary about what that day meant to her. She passed away a year after that. She doesn't know how much that mattered. Her last thing in her diary was, 'I wish I could do more to help people.' That's what keeps us going," said Rick Temarantz, president and founding member of Valley with a Heart. "Every year it keeps getting bigger and bigger."

Registration for Sunday's hour-long motorcycle run starts at 8 a.m. with breakfast. The ride begins at 11 a.m. Cost is $15 per rider and $10 for a passenger. Admission to the benefit concert and picnic is $5 for those above age 12.

The poster children of this year's event are expected to be in attendance.

Ayonna the sweetheart

One of this year's poster children is Ayonna DeGraffenreid, 4, of Kingston.

She was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a birth defect that affects normal blood flow through the heart.

"She was born with a half of a heart and has had to have three surgeries," Ayonna's grandmother Jayanne Czerniakowski, 49, said.

Ayonna is the daughter of Dominick DeGraffenreid and Emily Domanski.

The little girl's first heart surgery occurred at five days old and the second at six months. She had her third operation in May.

Czerniakowski said the generosity of people from Valley with a Heart has been a blessing, helping with food, gas and tolls for frequent trips to Philadelphia hospitals and even household bills.

"They've helped us a few different times when we needed it. The whole organization is terrific," Czerniakowski said. "I don't have money to give back to them, but I actually joined the organization as a volunteer to pay it forward."

Skyla's new ride

Skyla Hall, 5, of Hanover Twp., was born with cerebral palsy and needs to use a wheelchair to move around.

For years, her mother Sherri Hall tried her best to transport her in regular vehicles for her constant trips to Philadelphia hospitals. Valley with a Heart was among the organizations that provided donations to assist Skyla's mother in buying a modified, accessible van to make the transport easier.

Sherri Hall said the people of Luzerne County have been sympathetic to her daughter's plight beyond what she could ever expect.

"This was one the biggest ones yet — the Valley with a Heart donation," Sherri Hall, 36, said.

Sherri Hall has said she and her daughter barely get by on her income as a property manager and private chef because she can't work a traditional job due to "Skyla's complex schedule."

The generosity of people like those from Valley with a Heart help tremendously, she said.

"I'm a first-time mom and a first-time special needs mom," Sherri Hall said. "I'm so grateful for what they are doing for me and my daughter. People like that deserve the biggest blessings."

Contact the writer:

bkalinowski@citizensvoice.com

570-821-2055; @cvbobkal

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(c)2023 The Citizens' Voice (Wilkes-Barre, Pa.)

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