Carly Kudzia parties with Caillou, gets ready to rock at Sept. 26 eventWritten by Vicki L. Kroll | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Excited voices emanated from the hallway as 25 students at the Hope Nursery School and Child Care Center in Whitehouse waited to meet Canadian cartoon character Caillou.
The kids filed into the room and sat down. A bit overwhelmed, Carly Kudzia was carried in by her mom, Heather, who was tearing up.
“I don’t usually get this emotional over Caillou,” Heather joked, explaining that the bill of Carly’s ball cap had poked her in the eye.
Carly joined her classmates, who were full of questions when the character who loves to daydream appeared. He was quite tall for a 4-year-old.
“Do you think he fits in a car?” one boy asked.“Did his parents drop him off?”
“Do you watch ‘Caillou’ on PBS?” Amanda Grimes of DHX Media, the production company of “Caillou,” asked the class.
“No, I watch him on TV,” one student replied.
“Where are your friends?” another shouted.
Caillou was feeling shy and whispered his answers to Grimes. “At daycare like you,” she said.
Another student wanted to know: “Why is Caillou so big?”
“Because he’s outside the TV,” Grimes answered.
Thanks to Carly, each child had the chance to meet Caillou, have a photo taken with him and receive a gift bag.
The visit was a present from Katie Couric to the 4-year-old to thank her for appearing on the talk show “Katie” July 28. On that episode, Couric paid tribute to Sam Berns, who died in January at age 17. Like Carly, he had progeria. His inspiring attitude about living with the fatal genetic condition was the subject of the HBO documentary “Life According to Sam.”
On the program, Heather and Ryan Kudzia talked about the rare disease characterized by rapid aging, along with Brandon and Tina Pickard, who brought their 7-year-old son, Zach.
The families were flown to New York City and visited the Statue of Liberty the day before taping the show.
“You know how you see people standing at the airport holding up a sign? They had Carly Kudzia on a sign; that was pretty cool,” Ryan said.
“When Kaylee [Halko] heard that Katie arranged for Zach and his parents to see Queen with Adam Lambert in concert and Carly got to meet Caillou, she just shook her head,” Heather said and laughed. “She then told Carly that if she’s asked again, she’s to say she wants to meet Taylor Swift and take her best friend Kaylee.”
Carly, Kaylee and Zach are three of the 120 children in the world who have the disease, according to Audrey Gordon, president and executive director of the Progeria Research Foundation.
Those children are participating in a drug trial through the foundation, the only nonprofit dedicated to treating and finding a cure for progeria.
To help raise funds for the drug trial, the Kudzias have organized the fourth annual Carly’s Party for the Cure set for 7 p.m. Sept. 26 at the Pinnacle, 1772 Indian Wood Circle, Maumee. There’ll be auction baskets and raffle items, including sports memorabilia and tickets, as well as appetizers, a cash bar and music by 56Daze. Tickets for the 21 and older event are $30 online at teamCarlyQ.com/events and $35 at the door.
The Halkos are taking this year off from hosting Kaylee’s Course, a run and walk, as they just moved to Perrysburg.
“We’re still working on discovering new drugs because they’re treatments, they’re not cures,” Gordon said. “The more funds we have, the more people we can have working on these projects and the faster we’ll get to the cure.”
Carly’s Party raised about $50,000 last year, Ryan said.
“We’re just super blessed and lucky that we have this community support not only in Whitehouse, but Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan,” he said.
“I can’t go anywhere without someone recognizing Carly or having heard of progeria or lending a hand. I’m really thankful for that; I’m thankful that — I don’t know if I have the words,” Heather said.