By Evamarie Socha
The Daily Item
MIFFLINBURG — The second weekend in October means one thing in Mifflinburg: It’s time for the Kelsey’s Dream Fall Festival.
“It gets bigger every year,” Kylie Kuhns said of the festival, now in its sixth year, as she, family members and many volunteers were busy Thursday evening getting the Mifflinburg Veterans of Foreign Wars fairgrounds ready for Saturday’s event, which will be held from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
New to the festival this year are magician Brent Kessler, a petting zoo and pony rides featuring Ashburn’s Animals on a Mission, of Selinsgrove. Performing will be representatives of Enterline’s Dance Center and the American Academy of Martial Arts, plus there will be live music by Xchanged and Woody Wolfe.
There will be plenty of games and other fun, and no festival is complete without the food. And for this festival, that includes the traditional apple-butter boil, the event that started the whole thing six years ago.
The festival is among the main fundraisers for the Kelsey’s Dream Foundation, the charity Kylie founded in honor of her sister Kelsey, who died in 2005 at 12 after a several-year battle with leukemia.
The charity began as a fundraising effort to bring comfort packages to kids enduring cancer treatments at Geisinger Medical Center, where Kelsey was treated. But it eventually blossomed into a mission to get a “Chemo Duck” into the hands of every pediatric cancer patient on the East Coast.
The Chemo Duck is a stuffed toy that is outfitted with some of the medical tools children under treatment would have, such as a chemo port on the chest. Doctors use the toy to explain to young patients what will happen during treatment. The kids keep the ducks with them throughout their hospital stays.
Kelsey’s Dream has distributed more than 4,000 Chemo Ducks to young cancer patients up and down the eastern seaboard and stretching into the Midwest, Kylie said.
Kylie, 15 and a sophomore at Mifflinburg Area High School, has taken the charity to unimaginable heights.
In 2011, she was invited to take part in the Kindness Challenge, sponsored by USA Today and “The Rachael Ray Show,” in which five young volunteers pitched their causes and got six weeks to reach their philanthropic goals.
She handily beat her competition, raising more than $24,000 in six weeks and winning the online voting.
“The biggest thing that’s changed is getting our name out there more, and making more people aware of what we do and getting them involved,” Kylie said of the national attention.
At the moment, she is not reaching for another national campaign, “but that could change within a week. ‘The Rachael Ray Show’ happened within two weeks, so you never know.”
When she’s not raising funds, Kylie is busy playing soccer, softball and basketball, hanging out with friends and taking part in the many clubs she belongs to at Mifflinburg High.
And while this time of year is emotional for her and her family — Kelsey would have turned 19 on Oct. 8 — the festival “keeps us on track,” she said.
For details, visit www.kelseysdream.org, go to “events” and click on “what’s happening.”