Warren residents and others from across the East Bay came out in droves Saturday for a “Chocolate Surprise” fund-raiser at Savon Shoes, raising nearly $7,000 for Natalie Swift, a local woman stricken with ALS. The fund-raiser was planned and hosted by her son Tommy, 7.
The day-long event was a show of support and strong feeling for Ms. Swift. Since the day she was diagnosed with this deadly disease last year, Mrs. Swift has never wavered, and uses her faith and love of family as her greatest support measures.
Chocolate baked goods filled tables at the entrance area of Savon Shoes (formerly Jamiel’s Shoe World) on Main Street, where the event was held, and volunteers, friends and perfect strangers came throughout the day not just to buy treats, but also to drop off baked goods to be sold. Though they anticipated starting at 11 a.m., volunteers who arrived to set up around 9:30 a.m. were quickly cornered by shoppers, and started the event early.
The rush never let up. Over the course of the day neighbors, young and old, showed their support by coming in, dropping a few dollars and spending time to talk to Tommy and his family and friends. This was all about Warrenites and non-residents alike bonding together for the same common cause.
Natalie’s sister-in-law, Lesley Swift, couldn’t believe the generosity and love that greeted the event. Young Tommy, who came up with the idea of holding a fund-raiser for his mom, was a very happy little boy when it concluded. He even received a donation from Robert D. Blais of the Blazeman Foundation for ALS in Seekonk. Mr. Blais’s son, Jon, was diagnosed with ALS in 2005 and died two years later. Mr. Blais wanted to be there Saturday for Tommy and his mom, and gave the family a personal donation.
“I can’t thank everyone enough for all their support,” Lesley Swift said. “Tommy couldn’t believe how big this turned into. He told his dad the other day that he thought he was just going to sell a few things in the front yard. We had a few gluten-free items for sale; some sugar-free cupcakes; and lots and lots of chocolate treats.
“This young boy (Tommy) can teach us all an important lesson about life,” said Warren resident Margaret Lopes, who marveled at the number of people who supported the event.
“At home, I am sure there are extremely difficult moments filled with a sadness that seems to never go away, but here is he finding something positive to do for his family. If we all could just take something from this, if we could all see the light when all seems dark like Tommy, the world would be so much happier. I know he has me looking at things differently.”
All told, the event raised about $6,700 for the Natalie Swift Foundation, and the woman at the heart of it said she was overwhelmed to see what her son had achieved.
“For a seven-year-old to step back from himself and think of planning something to help his mom is one of those moving parent moments,” Natalie Swift said. “We are so proud of Tommy. He never expected his bake sale to get as big as it did, but he didn’t realize a couple of things: Our amazing, loving community we live in, and his Aunt Lesley’s and Dawn’s ability to make things happen.”
“When you put all of this together, you have an amazingly successful bake sale.”