Spaghetti noodles bring in oodles for cancer patient at fundraiser

Madeleine Misterek, Sports Editor

On Feb. 28, what started off as an ambitious idea and desire to help a dear friend became reality at Harborview Fellowship Church. The freshman girls Younglife group raised over $8000 at a spaghetti fundraiser dinner for Diane Benoit. Benoit has a rare cancer called Alveolar Rhabdomyosarcoma, which affects her neck and face.

Tracy Haugen, one of the leaders for the Younglife group, works with Diane. Colleen Brunkow also leads the group and is a close friend. These two and their freshman daughters, Anna Haugen and Betsy Brunkow, led the fundraising efforts.

“I think it was just that we knew Diane was suffering, you know mentally, physically and with all the bills and everything, that we wanted to help her out with that,” Anna Haugen said.

Benoit’s daughter, Emily, is part of the Younglife campaigners group, which made the occasion even more important to the girls who helped put the fundraiser into action.

“That’s what inspired me was because Emily is like a really really close friend, one of my bestest friends, so it was really affecting me too. So I just wanted to go in and help as much as I could, like no matter what I could do I wanted to do it cause I wanted to help her so much,” Betsy Brunkow said.

Tracy Haugen photo

Haugen’s mom spent days cooking spaghetti leading up to the event. Other preparations included making centerpieces and buying tablecloths, finding a location and recruiting volunteers.There were more people involved with putting on the event than just Haugen, Brunkow, and their moms.  Kirby Tweten, who owns the Harvester restaurant, donated food and came with his wife, Paula Tweten, to help out. Benoit’s husband, Don Benoit, is a chef at The Harvester and made the spaghetti sauce. The Younglife girls, as well as some parents, were there to set-up, serve food, clean tables and auction off dessert items.

“People just pitched in no matter if they knew her or not. They were so sweet. Everyone just came for this one cause. It was adorable,” Brunkow said.

Benoit previously worked as an office manager for Hughes and Clarke Dental Office in Gig Harbor. Some the patients who know and love her did not hesitate to assist and show their support in attending. Just one example was Amy Jones, who goes to Harborview Fellowship and helped make the location for the fundraiser possible, free of charge.

Haugen estimates around 200 guests total came and ate between 6 and 8 p.m. Although there was limited seating, she says “somehow we made it work.”

People just pitched in no matter if they knew her or not. They were so sweet.

— Betsy Brunkow

Along with eating and socializing, other touches made the event’s atmosphere even more special for Benoit and all of her friends.

“Me and some of the Younglife girls and my sister, we put together a video of people she knew and us with signs and stuff so that was cool. And then we had singers singing some of her favorite songs,” Haugen said.

Many other guests took the opportunity to write encouraging notes for Benoit to take home as well.

After hundreds of plates of pasta sold, an auction and generously filled donation jars, the spaghetti dinner raised $8600.

“Our goal was $5000 and we didn’t even think we were gonna raise that much, so that was a big blessing,” Haugen said.

The money will go to the Benoits to help with medical bills and any other expenses they can use it for. Today, Benoit is finished with radiation treatments, and her cancer is in remission.

“I love Emily and I love Diane and I love the family so much. They have the biggest hearts,” Brunkow said. “D [Benoit] always is like caring for you, no matter what, like any person she sees… She’s so nice to every single person. It’s just really inspiring to be around.”