Hold a spaghetti feed and auction benefit and you just never know what will happen.
In the case of Sunday’s event benefitting Angelica Haakenson, 11, of Anchor Point, and her family, organizer Kayla Tennison said it was more successful than anticipated. The event, plus donation cans around town, raised a grand total of more than $30,000.
“It was definitely a success,” she said. “We were trying to have people sign in at the front door and we counted 515, but I know there were more than that.”
The Chapman School parking area was filled, as was the Anchor Point Visitor Center parking area to the right and the Anchor River Inn overflow parking area to the left. Alaska State Trooper vehicles were parked along the Sterling Highway, with lights flashing. Seating area in the gym, either at tables or in the bleachers, was hard to find. The 60 pounds of spaghetti cooked by Tennison and her crew of helpers fell short of feeding everyone that attended.
Angelica is still in Providence Hospital in Anchorage, recovering from injuries sustained in a Christmas Day wreck that resulted in the amputation of both legs above the knee.
However, her mother, Mathany Satterwhite, attended the Sunday event.
“Awesome, amazing, wonderful. Words can’t express how grateful we are,” Satterwhite told the Homer News. “This is such a small community.”
Small, perhaps, but big when it comes to support for the mother and daughter. The two were returning home from Christmas celebrations with family when, just a mile and a half from their home, “I noticed my lights were dimming down,” said Satterwhite. “My check engine light came on and I had no power at all.”
Satterwhite coasted her 1994 Toyota pickup to the side of the road and signaled for help to her father, Nathan Sargeant, who was following behind. Sargeant was taking a family friend, John Hangstefer, to his residence in Kenai after Hangstefer had spent the day with the Sargeant family.
“He went past me, put the brakes on, turned into the (Happy Valley) store, and was facing me. We were both off the road,” said Satterwhite.
“I got out and opened the hood. Dad got out. Angelica got out. Dad said it was probably the alternator.”
Neither Satterwhite nor her father had jumper cables. Without power to operate the lights on her vehicle, towing was out of the question. She called her brother for assistance and then remembers hearing her father yell.
“It was that quick,” said Satterwhite of the life-changing accident.
A vehicle operated by Larry Pyatt hit her pickup. With no lights operating on Satterwhite’s vehicle and only one headlight visible on Sargeant’s, Pyatt had begun skidding as he slowed and then struck Satterwhite’s pickup.
“I blacked out. Then came to and knew I was in the air. I knew it was bad. It seemed like forever before I hit the ground,” said Satterwhite.
Angelica was pinned between the van and pickup, according to the Alaska State Troopers. Hearing her daughter’s screams, Satterwhite said she wanted to get to her, “but I couldn’t move.”
Angelica and Satterwhite were transported to South Peninsula Hospital. Sargeant and Pyatt suffered minor injuries. Hangstefer, who was in a wheelchair in the van driven by Sargeant, was thrown against the windshield by the impact and also injured.
“I kept asking if my daughter was OK and they just kept saying she was in good hands,” said Satterwhite.
Mother and daughter were then flown to Providence Hospital. In addition to losing her legs, Angelica suffered multiple spinal fractures. The impact knocked Satterwhite out of her shoes, broke her right femur and right hand, cracked several ribs, caused her left leg to swell and imbedded a piece of her glasses in her face.
Ten weeks pregnant at the time of the wreck, Satterwhite said an ultrasound at Providence confirmed “everything is OK.”
Angelica and her mother’s experience touched the hearts of people near and far.
When Gretchen McCullough of Faith Lutheran Church in Homer heard about the dinner and auction, she contacted Tennison to offer the help of 22 young people from Copper Center, Chugiak, Palmer, Anchorage and Homer that are part of a church youth group. On Sunday, they helped serve dinner to the crowd.
Representing Kachecab, Joey Lothian, Chris Fischer and Dave Adam were on hand with a 2000 Ford Windstar handicap-accessible van, made ready for donating to Angelica and her family with the help of Carquest and Boog’s Automotive.
Chris Story of Story Real Estate spent the afternoon auctioning hundreds of items donated by businesses, organizations and individuals. Green “Angelica Strong” T-shirts were quickly bought. A large piece of butcher paper on the wall near the school’s entrance was covered with messages for Angelica.
Still to come are roadside emergency kits being put together by Anchor Point Fire and Emergency Medical Services, with support from Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10221, Kachemak Gear Shed, Coastal Realty, Tesoro and Alaska State Troopers. The high-visibility bags, designed to be easy to find in the dark, will contain an LED flashlight with batteries and two glow stick-style flares safe for children to use and good for six to eight hours, according to Kayt Ligenza-Andrews, president of the Anchor Point Fire and Emergency Medical Services volunteer association.
Three hundred kits are being assembled and expected to be ready by mid-February.
“Our goal is to get a $10 donation for each one and keep the (fundraising) momentum going,” said Ligenza-Andrews.
“This isn’t a one-time hospital visit. This is something that Angelica will be living with the rest of her life.”
Surrounded by the outpouring of community concern on Sunday, Satterwhite was back in Anchorage with her daughter on Monday.
Plans call for Angelica to be transferred in the near future to another hospital in the Lower 48 where she will be fitted with prosthetics.
“The doctors said it’s pretty miraculous she is still with us,” said Satterwhite, her voice filled with emotion.