Thousands of people poured into the Wonderland of Wishes event today to the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center to help raise funds for Royersford's Becky and Steve Vivian and their four kids.
The Vivians' two youngest children, 7-year-old Eli and 4-year-old Ella, have a rare illness called MLD (metachromatic leukodystrophy). MLD is a degenerative disease that attacks the brain and central nervous system.
A group of local women first had the idea for this fundraiser just two months ago. After some false starts, the idea started coming together on October 21, which means that the Wonderland of Wishes was put together in just six weeks.
Those six weeks have been very busy, according to committee member Bethany Buscher.
"Some sleepless nights, definitely," Buscher said.
"We got together and started planning, and then cold-calling companies to ask for help."
Much of the food and decorations were donated and over 200 volunteers have given their time.
Joseph F. Chicco Contracting of Collegeville built the 18-foot-tall gingerbread house that was the centerpiece of the event and served as Santa's spot during the event.
All of the proceeds from today's event go to help the family with medical expenses and upcoming expenses for a trip to Milan, Italy, where Eli and Ella were accepted for treatment in a clinical trial. The study's location means that the family will have to spend months in Italy while the treatments are going on.
The Milan study represents the best hope that children with the disease have - in the last several months, several children in the study are showing improvement of their symptoms and the disease progression.
Teryn Suhr, who created the MLD Foundation along with her husband Dean, understands the Vivian family's struggle. The Suhrs had two daughters with MLD. Their youngest, Darcee, died of complications from anti-rejection drugs following a bone marrow transplant.
Their oldest daughter, Lindy, is now 32, and has lived ten years longer than doctors predicted when she was diagnosed.
Suhr was visibly emotional watching the Vivians see the event this morning.
"It's just amazing to see the community's love for this family," Suhr said.