A Lot of Baskets & A Lot of Love

by Heidi Butler, photos by Elaine Vasko
November 13, 2012

Over 200 baskets filled the roomThere are "Tricky Trays" and there are "Tricky Trays."

What is a "tricky tray," you ask.

A "tricky tray" is a fun-filled fundraiser in which people purchase tickets and place them in canisters next to items they hope to win, with the option of increasing their chances of success by entering as many tickets as they want.

The "tricky tray" held at Northampton Community College (NCC) on the second weekend in November was one for the record books.  More importantly, it was one for a very good cause.

Guests gasped as they entered Laub Lounge and saw row upon row of gift baskets -- 214 in all, containing prizes ranging from flat screen TVs to carpentry services to pet products to a trip to Vegas.

Oh, the decisions to be made!  One ticket for art supplies?  Two for a hot air balloon ride?

Guests could mull the possibilities over (and buy more tickets!) as they listened to live music or indulged in tasty rice, chicken and beans prepared by members of NCC's Hispanic Caucus, roasted almonds supplied by the "Bavarian nut lady," and  homemade waffles and ice cream dished up by J&R Concessions.  The animated emcee, radio/TV major Justin Frasca, also encouraged them to buy baked goods to take home, knowing that every cherry pie or piece of pineapple upside down cake purchased would benefit a family that has had a harrowing fall.

In early September, Susan Schultheis, a popular member of the College's computer services staff was stricken with Stevens-Johnson Syndrome -- a rare, life-threatening condition doctors believe was triggered by a reaction to a routine course of antibiotics.

In extreme pain from the deterioration of the skin all over her body, the formerly healthy mother of three was admitted to Lehigh Valley Hospital's Burn Unit where specially trained doctors and nurses treat up to 30 victims of "SJS" from the Lehigh Valley and beyond each year. 

For a month, Schultheis lay in a medically induced coma, her life in the balance.  Her husband Joe started a website, posting updates almost every day for concerned friends, neighbors and colleagues.  Usually there was nothing encouraging to report, but the message on October 23 trumpeted a breakthrough:  "Went to see Sue at 6 a.m.  After waiting about an hour, she was completely awake.  She now knows what the date is.  I told her she has been sleeping for a month.  This is when she started to cry.  I was so happy to see her awake and understanding what I was telling her.  It was like the joy when she gave birth to my firstborn."

Since emerging from the coma, Schultheis has continued to make progress.   She has a long road ahead of her, including lots of physical therapy at Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Hospital, but her colleagues at NCC hope that road will soon lead her back to the home she shares with Joe and their beloved dog Boo Boo, and then to the College where her cheerfulness, sense of humor and unfailing helpfulness made more of an impact than she realized.

Concerned both about Schultheis's medical expenses and about the loss of income her family has suffered during her illness, staff members from different departments in the college  banded together to plan  a "Tricky Tray" fundraiser. 

Kathy Barner, Deb Doll, Tracey Johnson, Annette Savo, and Maggy Simonka were "blown away" by the donations and offers of help they received.  Although this small group did most of the prep work, approximately 80 volunteers turned out to help at the event.  NCC students and staff and Schultheis's family, neighbors and friends all pitched in to make it a success.

And what a success it was.  Close to 700 people showed up and bought tickets thanks to word-of-mouth publicity, posts in social media, and coverage on WFMZ-TV

On November 16, Schultheis's colleagues delivered the proceeds to the family -- a check for $22,500.  A basketful of love came with it.

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