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Impromptu fundraiser exceeds expectations

Gateway Grill raises seven times the needed amount for employee’s grandaughter’s trampoline
Sommer Schuler, granddaughter of Gateway Grill employee Austi Schuler, was the beneficiary of a fundraiser by the restaurant to get her a new trampoline. The success of the fundraiser paid for the item with dollars to spare. Pictured, Sommer poses on her new trampoline with the cheque from the initiative. Photo submitted

The folks at Gateway Grill decided to raise money last week so their cleaner’s granddaughter could get a new trampoline and it was hoped they could bring in the $505 to cover the cost through burger and ice cream sundae sales.

What they didn’t expect is customers would help them raise about seven times that amount.

“It was pretty impressive in such a short amount of time, especially during COVID. Not a lot of people are going out for dinner,” said Kalen Jones, owner of Gateway Grill, who employed Austi Schuler for her cleaning services about six years ago.

Staff call Schuler the Cleaning Fairy and note she’s a hero among employees.

“I was floored at how much we raised so quickly. The rest of the money is going to go toward Sommer for any other things she needs. She uses a wheelchair and accessibility stuff always needs upgrading.”

Schuler’s granddaughter, Sommer, has had a long fight with mobility issues that resulted from a brain tumor, leaving her paralyzed on the left side of her body.

It was jumping on her trampoline that helped her retain some of her strength and balance, but through wear and tear the equipment began to fall apart and Schuler was worried Sommer might fall through it.

“The doctors told Austi they didn’t think (Sommer) would walk for a while and they were surprised how fast she was able to; it was the trampoline because it helps with keeping your balance,” said Jones.

“I guess she’s just on it all the time, so it was important she has that there to keep her mobility.”

Sommer mentioned to Jones on June 25 that her grandmother was taking her trampoline to the dump, and Jones’ first thought was how mad Sommer would be without a trampoline to exercise on now that the warmer months are here.

Because trampolines aren’t exactly cheap to buy, the wheels starting turning in Jones’s head and he decided to do the fundraiser. By the end of the weekend, they had raised more than $3,000.

But this set up the next challenge.

“You wouldn’t believe how hard it is to get a trampoline. As soon as we started doing this, we couldn’t find one anywhere. Online or in-store,” said Jones.

“The closest one we could find was Kelowna. So Justin (Rauch, front of house staff) went on his own all the way into Kelowna to pick up the trampoline to make sure they had it for Sunday.”

Schuler said there are no words to describe the feeling that came from seeing the generosity of the community.

On Sunday, June 28 Jones and some of his employees delivered the new trampoline and Schuler said Sommer was ecstatic when she looked in the back of the van and saw what was inside.

“You should have seen her. Kalen said, ‘Sommer come and look in the back of my van,’” said Schuler.

“She saw the trampoline and she started stomping her feet. Her hands and arms were just a flappin’ and she kept yelling trampoline! Trampoline! The look on her face was absolutely just priceless.”

With the leftover money from the purchase, Schuler plans to get Sommer an iPod so she can listen to music while she enjoys jumping because the outdated CD player she uses doesn’t work as well as it used to.

The handheld iPod would also make it so she doesn’t have to stop exercising just to change songs. A replacement wheelchair ramp for her house may also be in the works with the leftover donations.

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