Little Mary’s holds annual fundraiser

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Rebekah Adler and her son Gabe deliver Saturday night’s keynote speech during the annual fundraiser for Little Mary’s Hospitality House. (Dylan Savela/News Advocate)

WELLSTON — Forty-three Fischers in total lined up for a family photo op Saturday at the Norman Township Community Center.

Three generations were accounted for in the group, their bubbly matriarch Maureen Fischer and her husband Thomas in the middle of it all.

The occasion for this reunion is a special one: the Little Mary’s Hospitality House annual fundraiser.

“It’s the only one of the year,” Maureen said of the day of entertainment, auctions and dinner. “What we make here is a big part of our budget.

“It takes a long time to organize,” she said, “a lot of work, but we get a lot of help. We are here to serve, not to be served.”

The Fischers, along with Little Mary’s board members and hospitality house staff, have been serving through Little Mary’s now for 34 years, providing families with children battling life-threatening or terminal illness a vacation for free in the beauty of Northern Michigan.

“Little Mary’s is a place of love,” Maureen said. “It’s a place of God, of caring, of sharing and it’s about the children.”

The nonprofit organization was established in memory of Thomas and Maureen’s 3-year-old daughter Mary Catherine Fischer who died of a terminal brain tumor in 1982.

The Fischers have always cherished the final family vacation they took with Mary and have devoted their lives to providing memorable vacations for other families dealing with similar situations.

The result has been over three decades of the year-round, family oriented, free vacation home located in Wellston on Crystal Lake, with all the necessary items for day-to-day living provided.

While the Fischers were in full force on Saturday, so too were their extended family: the dedicated friends and volunteers for Little Mary’s mission, and many of the countless children blessed by the opportunity to stay with their families at, what Mary calls, the place of love, God and caring.

One of those children is 9-year-old Gabe Adler, who delivered Saturday’s keynote speech with his mother Rebekah.

“Two days before my first birthday, my family discovered I was sick,” he said, citing a rare blood disease that the Adlers spent years trying to get diagnosed.

“Gabe’s condition was unpredictable and mysterious,” Rebekah said, adding that her son has had over 100 blood transfusions. “It was very difficult for doctors to fit him in any box. He was constantly poked and prodded.

“We traveled the country with him, visiting the best children’s hospitals we could find, bouncing back and forth to the local ones, almost every time, leaving more frustrated and scared,” she added. “We never got clear cut answers and still to this day don’t have explanations for some of his symptoms.”

Gabe expressed his desire to be a “normal kid,” like his brothers, but his family’s faith held them together.

“Our world spun out of control,” Rebekah said. “Although we lived daily with chaos, our deep suffering brought us extremely close to God. … The Lord ultimately led us to the world renown National Institute of Health, where we received direction and a treatment plan that unexpectedly put a stop to the blood transfusions.”

During that time, she explained, the Little Mary’s Hospitality House was a godsend as well.

“One of the big blessings we experienced was visiting Little Mary’s,” Rebekah explained. “Our family was so incredibly happy to have a place to vacation and especially not having the financial burden. … It was such an incredible experience for my children and it still is.

“Besides having a wonderful place to stay and vacation, we met some amazing people.”

For Gabe, it was a place to be a kid.

“My favorite thing to do was jump in the lake and catch frogs,” he said. “It blows away all the stuff you’ve been through and gives your family really good memories.”

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Posted by Dylan Savela

Dylan is the county reporter for the News Advocate, he also is in charge of the Small Town Life, religion and senior pages. He can be reached at (231) 398-3111 or dsavela@pioneergroup.com.

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