What began as a fundraiser for a local family quickly turned into something special last week at Pizza Hut in Lehighton.
Gavin Krum, 14, is fighting for his life against leukemia and a related infection. The son of Lora and Dave Krum of Lehighton, Gavin is currently in the intensive care unit at Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital.
When the servers at Pizza Hut in Lehighton heard that Gavin, a regular customer, was facing a health crisis, they organized a fundraiser to raise money for the family's medical and travel expenses. The community's reaction to this gesture, and the outpouring of support for the family, was simply overwhelming.
Cars spilled out of the parking lot, with drivers jockeying for space along the side of Route 443. Customers waited more than two hours for a hot pizza, or crowded into the restaurant to take advantage of a bake sale for Gavin. The restaurant eventually disconnected its phones and Internet ordering lines to catch up with existing orders. But that didn't stop many people they simply showed up at the restaurant to place their order in person, and to wait patiently for their meal.
"We hoped that we would be busy, to help Gavin's family, but we had no idea that it would be like this," said Pizza Hut manager Kelly Moser. "It was overwhelming, that people were willing to wait two hours for a pizza just to help this family."
Moser and servers Lorraine Snyder and Stacy Trinkle have known the Krum family for years. They frequent the restaurant one to two times a week. After hearing about Gavin's illness, the servers were moved to do something to help.
"The family has been coming here since the kids were little. We watched them grow up," said Trinkle, a server and supervisor at the Lehighton Pizza Hut. "It's been very difficult to know that his family is going through this."
Family members have been touched by the efforts of the Pizza Hut staff and other members of the community. The financial donations are helpful, but even more important is knowing that they're not alone in this crisis.
"It is wonderful just to know that people care," said Linda Muffley, Gavin's aunt. "So many people call and ask what they can do. We hope and pray that he will get better, but he's really sick. You hold onto every thread that he's going to get better."
Unfortunately, this is not the first time that the Krum family has faced a medical crisis. Their son Dylan passed away two years ago from complications of a rare childhood cancer, pediatric follicular lymphoma. He was 15 years old.
"It's only been two years since his brother passed away," said Muffley. "It's similar to what happened to Dylan when he was fighting lymphoma and then the infections. It's been tough for the entire family."
She noted that the family has since started a scholarship fund in Dylan's name, and began a charitable group called "In Dylan's Arms" to raise funds for other families facing a health crisis. Their efforts seem ironic and bittersweet now that their youngest son is fighting leukemia.
"Some people have also donated to the Ronald McDonald House," she added. "Gavin's parents get to sleep there at night, because they can't sleep at the hospital. What a wonderful organization that is. I would see those boxes at McDonalds and never realized how important this organization was to families with critically ill children."
The event at Pizza Hut raised about $3,000 for the Krum family's medical and travel expenses. A portion of every sale went toward the family, as did all of the proceeds from the bake sale. Servers also donated their tips for the night.
"It took the whole community to make this work," added Snyder. "We just made the pizzas. It was the community, with their generosity and patience, that made this possible. There were people standing in line for two hours waiting for pizza. We were all standing in the back, close to tears, after watching these people come in to support Gavin."
Volunteers from Pizza Hut have been quick to point out that theirs was not the only fundraiser in Gavin's honor. Churches, schools, and other organizations have gathered funds and get well cards for Gavin, while others have posted countless messages on the "Support Gavin Krum" Facebook page.
The Krum family has been tremendously thankful for the community's support as they deal with Gavin's illness.
"I want them to know how appreciative our entire family is, for all of their thoughts and prayers during this difficult time," said Muffley.
To make a contribution to the Krum family, contact Muffley at (484) 554-7301.