When Mona Caldwell learned that her youngest son’s cancer was not responding to chemotherapy, she didn’t know how she and her family would survive.
Then the Sierra Vista community came to the rescue to help the family financially.
A handful of businesses in the city and at least one Sierra Vista City Council member, will hold fundraisers aimed at helping Caldwell’s 29-year-old son Tyler Kuriger, his wife Ashley and their two daughters ages 4 and 10, while Tyler battles stage four Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
Tyler was diagnosed with the illness in November 2018, Caldwell said. The young father started an intense chemotherapy regimen in December that still allowed him to work at his job “here and there” at the Body Shop in Sierra Vista, Caldwell said. Family members thought Kuriger was progressing, but then a PET scan showed that two areas were “not receptive to the chemo,” Caldwell said.
At that point, Caldwell’s world caved in.
“I didn’t know how we would survive,” Caldwell said recently in an interview. “We didn’t know what to do, where to go.”
Caldwell — who has four older children — said Kuriger is slated to begin a more aggressive chemotherapy treatment that includes traveling to Tucson three times a week, every two weeks. Because the treatment is so intense — chemotherapy drains the body of energy — Kuriger can no longer work.
“This is not so much for his medical bills, but for their living expenses and driving back and forth to Tucson (from Sierra Vista),” Caldwell said of her son and his family.
That’s when Caldwell, a registered nurse at Valor Hospice, reached out to longtime friend Tracy Shilt, who works in the community outreach and relations division at Haven of Sierra Vista nursing home. With her contacts in the areas, Shilt knew she could likely obtain resources for the Kurigers via fundraising events.
“When I found out what was going on I told her (Mona), ‘We have an amazing community. Let’s see what we can do,’” Shilt said.
Indeed, the floodgates of generosity opened and a handful of Sierra Vista businesses pledged to help the Kuriger family. They include Outback Steakhouse, Landmark Cafe, Dickey’s Barbecue, Buffalo Wild Wings, Chili’s and Broxton’s Coffee.
Additionally, Sierra Vista City Councilman William Benning is holding a Cars and Coffee event at Broxton’s on Aug. 17 for the Kurigers. The proceeds garnered that morning will go to the family and Benning said he will match whatever is collected.
The councilman will also be the sitting target in a dunk tank at the Roadrunner Brew Fest in Sierra Vista on Aug. 31. Money raised from that event also will be donated to the Kuriger family, Benning said.
Outback Steakhouse will be hosting a Dining to Donate event on July 29, while the other businesses have donated items for raffles, Caldwell said.
“I think our community is one of the best ones when it comes to coming together for others,” Benning said. “It’s not about me. It’s about what we can do for Tyler and his family.”
That sentiment was echoed by Landmark Cafe owner Pam Anderson who will have a pancake breakfast at her eatery and donate the proceeds to the Kurigers. Anderson said she learned of Kuriger’s illness when Caldwell asked if she would contribute to the fundraising effort. The pancake breakfast is scheduled for Aug. 31.
“We’re pretty much community oriented around here,” Anderson said. “They’re (the Kurigers) are going to need a lot of help.”
Caldwell says she is overwhelmed with the outpouring of kindness she has received from the community. Her daughter-in-law Ashley Kuriger, agreed.
“Everything on the whole is overwhelming,” Ashley Kuriger said. “The effort is really all Mona. Without her I really don’t know what I would do right now.”
Aside from the businesses Caldwell has petitioned, she also held family meetings where each of her four other children took on a fundraising project to help their youngest sibling. One son stationed in Italy for the U.S. Air Force, is raising money there, Caldwell said. Caldwell is also holding a yard sale on July 20 from 6 a.m. to noon, at her residence, 2483 Montaro Dr., in Sierra Vista.
The 53-year-old mother and grandmother stressed that the kindness and generosity of the Sierra Vista community has left her reeling; she wants other families who are dealing with the same issues to know there is help out there.
“I know we’re not the only ones in Sierra Vista who are in this predicament,” Caldwell said. “As a mother and a nurse, I know the struggle. Everybody needs an advocate. The kindness of the community is very, very much appreciated.”
Anyone interested helping the Kuriger family can contact Caldwell at: firstname.lastname@example.org.