Open house auction raises $1,000
30-year-old with cerebral palsy donates to woman with brain disorder
Jeanel Gressel jokingly refers to Cameron Rutledge as a "heart-stealer" who can be a bit of a flirt.
On Sunday, Cameron managed to plant a kiss on the cheek of Donna Conrad.
It happened during Cameron's open house at the Tonganoxie Community Historic Site.
The open house honored Cameron, who turned 30 on Oct. 8. Cameron, who has cerebral palsy, had plenty of guests for the event, but he opted to shine the spotlight on someone else -- and that someone else was Conrad.
A 27-year-old Tonganoxie woman, Conrad has Arnold-Chiari Malformation, which is a brain disorder. With the disorder, part of the brain hangs too low, cutting off the flow of spinal fluid to the rest of the body.
At the open house, about 60 visitors gathered with Cameron for birthday cake and punch and then bid on items in a silent auction that raised more than $1,000. The money was given to Conrad after the party.
Conrad said Rutledge's act of kindness made her "really emotional."
"There's been a lot of support in the community," she said. "I can't thank them enough."
Jim Rutledge, Cameron's father, said he was pleased with the money raised through the auction.
"You can't complain when you get a thousand dollars," he said. "Every little bit helps."
Gressel, who is from Lenexa, met Cameron Rutledge at a Kansas City T-Bones game. Through T-Bones games, she and her husband, Gary, have gotten to know Cameron. They helped spearhead Sunday's benefit, which well surpassed her goal of $500.
"See, these are some great people," Gressel said. "The other goal was to get some exposure for Donna, so that was just as great."
In addition, an account for donations for Conrad has been established at First State Bank and Trust locations in Tonganoxie. The account is called the Donna Conrad Donation account.
Jeanel and Gary also have served for the past four years as a host family for T-Bone players. One player the couple has gotten to know, Jonathan Kysa, made an appearance at Rutledge's open house.
One could tell the influence baseball has had on Cameron, as tables were adorned with baseball decorations.
For Dixie Rutledge, Cameron's mother, Sunday was a reunion of sorts with the many volunteers who helped pattern Cameron 28 years ago. When Cameron was 2, several volunteers helped in shifts with patterning, which is physical therapy used to assist cerebral palsy patients.
Dixie said that roughly 150 people volunteered as "patterners" 28 years ago.
"This is fulfilling to us and to Cameron," Dixie said.
And, she said it was rewarding to see so many people participating in the event.
"I just thank everybody for the opportunity to give back to the community after all these years," Dixie said.
Byron Parsons, who lives north of Jarbalo with his wife, Janie, said his mother helped pattern Cameron.
"It's a neat reunion," Byron said about the open house.
Janie had the winning bid on four large stuffed animals in conjunction with the silent auction.
"They look like they need lovin'," Janie said with a smile.
Janie, who is a teacher in the Basehor-Linwood School District at the Basehor Sixth Grade Center, plans to donate the stuffed animals to Alpha Delta Kappa, an international honorary organization of women educators, of which she's a member. The organization collects stuffed animals and then gives them to children, Janie said.
Like Cameron, she is passing on a good deed. She especially praised Cameron for his thoughtful deed.
"It takes a big heart to use your celebration and give it to someone else," Janie said. "And Cameron proved that."
The birthday boy also will have something to remember the open house by -- guests signed an oversized birthday card that Cameron took with him to his home north of Jarbalo.