The North Polk community has once again banded together as two of its members have been diagnosed with cancer within just months of each other. Both Charlie Bishop and Ross Muhlbauer currently reside in the Polk City area, and both are students in the North Polk School District. Now, as these two families struggle to overcome their battles with cancer, the North Polk community has worked together in order to create a “Two Families, One Community” fundraiser event.


Initiated by Diane Hammond (a mother of children who attend school with both Bishop and Muhlbauer), the fundraising committee would later branch out to incorporate a wide variety of members throughout the community, including Angela Cupp, Kim Johnson, Diana Mandernach, Jane Pottoff, Kari Karpinske and Traci Vandekrol.


“I kind of started the fundraiser because I’m a cancer survivor,” Hammond said, “I wanted to give back to the community because I was so supported when I went through treatment for breast cancer seven years ago. Creating the committee was my way of paying it forward.”


“Diane has a big heart for this type of situation. She herself has struggled and survived cancer,” Johnson added, “We wanted to come up with something to show these two families this community is behind them. I like to do work in the kitchen. So, putting together a supper fundraiser is something I can support and help organize.”


Bishop, a 16-year-old in the district, has undergone two major surgeries and is currently undergoing chemotherapy after being diagnosed with a brain tumor in the fall of 2016. In addition, Muhlbauer, a 12-year-old in the district, will undergo surgery this month after being diagnosed with stage 2b malignant melanoma in the fall of 2016 and then stage 3b metastatic melanoma in July of 2017.


“I feel like the Muhlbauers and Bishops are living every parent’s worst nightmare right now, and anything we can do to help them feel loved and supported through this time is important, “ Cupp said.


“Coming from a small community, most of us are connected to these two families in some way. Personally, I am very passionate about children’s cancer, especially when it hits locally,” Karpinske added.


While it is mainly put on by members of the North Polk School district, this fundraiser has also had a strong impact on others throughout the community.


“Although I don’t personally know either family that well, I love being in a small community that rallies and supports each other. When I was 10 years old, my dad was diagnosed with cancer. Due to my own experience, I always have a heart for families dealing with the chapter of cancer in their lives,” Mandernach said.


“I’ve seen first hand what cancer does to children and their families and it’s very eye-opening. However, the entire North Polk Community has had a history of rallying around its people when devastation strikes. Now that cancer has hit two of our children, I think it has brought us to another level of caring,” Karpinske said.


With September marking National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, it is no coincidence that The Two Families, One Community fundraiser will take place this month at the North Polk High School. The evening will begin with a free-will offering spaghetti dinner, followed by a dessert auction. Attendees will then have the option to participate in a “Light Up the Night” walk around the North Polk High School track. Participants in the walk can bring flashlights the night of the event or they can purchase glow sticks throughout the evening and through the Two Families, One Community Facebook page.


“It’s just a great outpouring of help offered by others. The North Polk Schools have been wonderful to work with for a place to have the supper. Polk City United Methodist Church will donate all the bars that night for the dinner. And, several great businesses and individuals are donating items for our dessert auction,” Johnson said.


“I’m hoping that this event will be more than just a fundraiser, but also an emotional support and rally for these two amazing families,” Mandernach added.


The Two Families, One Community Fundraiser will take place on Saturday, Sept. 23, with doors opening at 5 p.m. For those unable to attend the event, donations to the families can also be made at the Luna Savings Bank in Polk City to the account, “Two Families, One Community.” Proceeds and donations from the fundraiser and bank account will go to help cover any of the family expenses they are accruing while undergoing treatment.


“The response to our ‘Two Families, One Community’ Fundraiser has been overwhelming, with many asking to be included in the planning/organizing, as well as just attending. Together we are #CometStrong,” Karpinske said.