At the St. Jude Benefit at Huggy Bear Campground on Saturday are Kendra VonderEmbse, the guest of honor; Kiamesha Wilson, a representative from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital; Vicki Otto, event coordinator; and Heidi Stemen, committee member. (Submitted photo)
At the St. Jude Benefit at Huggy Bear Campground on Saturday are Kendra VonderEmbse, the guest of honor; Kiamesha Wilson, a representative from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital; Vicki Otto, event coordinator; and Heidi Stemen, committee member. (Submitted photo)
MIDDLE POINT — The sixth annual St. Jude Benefit at Huggy Bear Campground surpassed its $100,000 goal over the weekend, reaching its new highest total for the annual event, $113,000.

Over its six years, the event has now raised $398,000 for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

“There’s so many good wonderful people out there who come to the benefit ready to donate and ready to support the cause,” Event Coordinator Vicki Otto said.

A storm went through the area on Friday night, which took down two of the tents set up at the campground, but the event volunteers were able to get one big tent up for Saturday’s events. Thankfully, the rain held off on Saturday.

“Everybody still came out on Saturday and it turned out to be a beautiful day,” Otto said.

A representative from St. Jude attended the benefit and explained that St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital operates on donations.

“Any patient that goes to St. Jude doesn’t have to pay for anything,” Otto said. “Our donations go to help the kids and take care of them and their families while they’re dealing with other issues.”

The guest of honor at the benefit was Kendra VonderEmbse, who had been a patient at St. Jude 13 years ago and spoke of how well she and her family were treated while at the hospital. VonderEmbse is originally from Ottawa but her family moved to Tennessee as she was getting treatment at St. Jude.

After college, VonderEmbse did an internship and research at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and now she is a family doctor.

“That was really cool to see that she was a patient at St. Jude and our money is really helping these people,” Otto said. “She is cancer free right now and a doctor herself.”

The weekend benefit featured a Showcase of the Bands, kiddie tractor pulls, kids fishing derby, various raffles, silent auction, 5K run, corn hole tournament and more. In 2015, the St. Jude Benefit at Huggy Bear Campground raised $55,000 in donations to the hospital and in 2016, it garnered $90,000.

In an effort to continue to build on the donations each year, Otto said other groups have started to hold events throughout the year to donate to the St. Jude Benefit funds. In the spring, a quarter auction was held in which the proceeds were donated to St. Jude.

On Aug. 12 a lawn mower derby is planned and this fall a purse bingo event will be held that will raise funds to donate to St. Jude also.

“You can put on an event but unless you have supporters and people there it’s not going to matter. I’m just utterly amazed at the support of everyone and so grateful of how generous everyone is,” Otto said.

“We want to thank everyone, the sponsors of the day, the people who volunteered and helped and every single person that was there because without everyone doing a little part, we wouldn’t be able to do such a great thing,”’ she said.