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SOUTH PLAINFIELD - South Plainfield resident Samantha Kaczmarczyk was presented with a check for $4,000 from Elks Lodge #2298 on Nov. 19, which brings her halfway to the $15,000 needed to fund a diabetic alert dog. The South Plainfield Elks’ Motorcycle Committee in conjunction with the Community Welfare Committee generated the funds by hosting an authentic Polish Dinner to benefit the family on Oct. 19.
“We sold over 130 dinners, and we had a lot of take-out orders,” said Debbie Czech, Elks Motorcycle Committee member and Past Vice President. “Everything was handmade from scratch. It was an homage to the original polish recipe, my grandmother’s recipe.”
Volunteers made 628 pierogis, rolling out dough and making homemade filling. The entire dinner was a group effort. Eileen Uken contributed stuffed cabbage/halushki. Paula Janeczek made kielbasi and Joanie Doctor made cabbage and noodles. Lucy Salvatore helped cook with the assistance of Joe Czech (lovingly referred to as 'Chief Pierogi Officer'). The Motorcycle Committee, led by president Brian Csobar, all had a hand in the Polish feast, including: AJ Ferrick, Valerie Preston, Kurt Kracsun, Glen and Debbie Page, Chris Page, Paula and Rob Janeczek, Ted Doktor and April Csobar.
Kaczmarczyk, a talented artist, also painted three pictures that were raffled off at the dinner. The Elks have special committees to step in and help the community when it’s needed.
“When the Motorcycle Committee does a fundraiser, nobody looks at it as ‘I,’ it is ‘we,’” said Brian Csobar, President of the Elks Motorcycle Committee. “We feel great to help out in any way possible, and we look forward to future fundraisers. That is what our Motorcycle Committee feels good about.”
Chairman of Elks Community Welfare Allen Mateyka and his committee also worked to contribute to the cause working in the kitchen and anywhere else they were needed.
“We helped with the dinner and split the chores,” said Mateyka. “Half of my committee is their committee too, so we all work together. What we didn’t raise that day, we took out of our committee funds to make up the balance. That’s what we do community welfare, we help out the town.”
Kaczmarczyk was diagnosed with Diabetes Type 1 when she was 13 years old. She and her husband, Sebastian, now have three children, 8-year-old Alysandra, 4-year-old Aubriella, and 8-month-old Alalia.
“When I was pregnant, my sugar would drop so quickly that I would get extremely tired,” Kaczmarczyk said.
With each pregnancy, Kaczmarczyk’s blood sugar became more and more unpredictable, dropping so suddenly that it was difficult to wake her, and she often balanced on the verge of a diabetic coma.
“Luckily my husband came home just in time,” said Kaczmarczyk. “He would notice I was out of it and call 911 right away. With my second child, it happened twice, and with the last one, it happened so often that I can’t even count how many times.”
Since the birth of her third child, Kaczmarczyk’s sugar levels still fluctuate dangerously and her pump has been infected. Her children and husband live in constant fear that she will slip into a coma in her sleep.
“I get scared because I don’t know if she’s going to wake up or not,” said Alysandra Kaczmarczyk, their oldest child. “I always try to help.”
Kaczmarczyk’s doctor recommended that she look into getting a diabetic alert dog. The animal is trained to detect variations in her blood sugar, especially while she sleeps. Kaczmarczyk says she was very excited when she heard about the option of getting a diabetic alert dog, but that the price was beyond what she could afford.
“When I reached out to Diabetic Alert Dogs of America, and they told me how much it was, I thought I would never be able to get that kind of dog for that much money because I can’t afford it,” said Kaczmarczyk. “But then when the Elks offered to do the fundraiser, and Rene Eggert, who I work with, she did a lot of fundraising for me, that helped me too.”
Czech heard the story of need for the diabetic alert dog after hiring Sebastion Kaczmarczyk, who owns a local construction business.
“Sebastian came and ended up painting the whole interior of my house,” said Czech. “He laid down flooring in my den. Since then, I have gotten to know the family and there is not a bad bone in their bodies. They’re very humble. It’s very serious what she has and if she had the dog, the dog would able to sense when her sugar drops, just like dogs for people with seizures and heart conditions. We just hope other people in the community will pick up on the fundraising.”
The Kaczmarczyk family say they are excited and relieved that it is now possible they will get the dog to help them.
“I’m excited that she’s getting a dog,” added Alysandra Kaczmarczyk. “Sometimes on the weekends she falls asleep, and she doesn’t want to get up and I always try to help. Sometimes I even make the tea for her.”
“Friday my sugar dropped really low and my daughter got me iced tea,” said Samantha Kaczmarczyk. “I walked out into the living room, and she gave me a really big hug. She said, ‘I thought you weren’t going to wake up.’ My heart shattered.”
Kaczmarczyk’s husband says he gets little sleep because he keeps watch over his wife.
“I feel relieved that she’s getting the dog,” said Sebastian Kaczmarczyk. “I’ll probably sleep better at night because I’m always worried about her. I’m just happy for her.”
It takes months to get a diabetic alert dog, who will be trained specifically for Samantha Kaczmarczyk. After having raised $8,300, Kaczmarczyk was able to send a deposit to Diabetic Alert Dogs of America. She is currently on a waiting list. Then it will take six to eight months for the dog to be trained before they will have the in-home service done with Kaczmarczyk, when she and her husband will learn the ins and outs of having a service dog.
“The diabetic alert dog is trained to sniff your blood because your blood has a salty and sweet scent when it’s high or low,” said Kaczmarczyk. “They take a blood sample, and they train the dog with that sample. The dog is trained to alert me if it’s high or low, but especially at nighttime the dog alerts you. Or it’ll even alert my husband, which is what we need.”
During the day, Kaczmarczyk says she can monitor her sugars better, but at night they drop so quickly that having the dog there to awaken her husband to help her before it is too late.
“The motto of the Elks motor cycle committees in the state of New Jersey is ‘we ride for charity,’ so every fundraiser that we do is going to benefit somebody or some cause that needs to be addressed, so it’s all charitable,” said Czech. “It’s not that we make the money and keep it for ourselves. Everything we do we donate away.”
Fundraising efforts were launched by the South Plainfield Elks, local supporters, and Samantha Kaczmarczyk’s co-worker Renee Eggert, who has launched a local fundraising campaign and a GoFundMe (https://bit.ly/33QLQqe).
“I never thought that so many people would donate the amount of money that we got,” said Kaczmarczyk. “I really appreciate all the help that the Elks gave us and that everyone in this town as has given us because without them, we wouldn’t be able to get this dog on our own.”