NAUGATUCK — In honor of her friend who is losing hair to chemotherapy, 8-year-old Kayla Couch wore a bandanna every day during a family gathering last month in Rhode Island.
“They asked her why, and she told them,” said Kimberly Lengyel, 34, Kayla’s mother. “She came home with 80 dollars.”
That was the start of their family’s fundraising for Kylie Simonds, 8, a second-grader at Hop Brook Elementary School who has rhabdomyosarcoma, a muscle cancer most common in children.
Kayla wanted to do another fundraiser for her classmate, so Lengyel put together Sunday’s “Courage for Kylie” festival on the Green, which netted the Simonds family at least $3,000 to help pay medical bills.
Hundreds of people dropped by the festival between noon and 5 p.m. to buy food, play games, jump in the bounce house, decorate cupcakes from Edible Dreams and enter to win a TV, bicycle or stay on Cape Cod.
The raffle prizes, food and games were nearly all donated by companies like borough-based Personal Pampering, New Haven-based Hommel Bros., Duncan Hines, Frito-Lay, Pepsi and Home Depot.
Organizers spent only about $500 to put on the event, which many Lengyel family members ran along with Boy Scout Troop 102, Lengyel said.
Kylie was diagnosed with cancer in March after a bout of tonsillitis, said her father, 33-year-old Michael Simonds.
After the swelling in Kylie’s throat went down, her doctor noticed something amiss, which turned out to be a tumor in her uvula, Simonds said.
The cancer was caught early, and Kylie had surgery at Yale-New Haven Hospital to remove it, Simonds said.
She has undergone a month of radiation and is now in the middle of 40 weeks of chemotherapy, Simonds said.
“It was a blessing that she had tonsillitis,” Simonds said.
Chemotherapy costs $1,400 a month and Simonds’ insurance only covers 70 percent of it, he said.
There are other bills that insurance doesn’t cover, such as a $10,000 custom-made mouthpiece that Kylie had to wear during radiation, Simonds said.
Family members said Sunday’s fundraiser, in conjunction with “Courage for Kylie” rubber bracelet sales and individual donations, has given them a boost.
Adam Grella, 27, of Wallingford, raised an additional $270 from people who sponsored him to have his hair and beard shaved on the Green.
Kylie’s mother, 33-year-old Kelly Simonds, said the festival’s success left her speechless.
“I don’t know how to thank people enough for their generosity,” Simonds said. “It just amazes me.”
Kylie, in line for a snow cone at the festival, said she was having fun and especially enjoyed the bounce house.
“She’s doing well,” Kelly Simonds said. “She’s a trooper.”