Holiday Booth at NewBo City Market Raises Money for Independence Family

By Jillian Petrus, Reporter

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - An effort to raise money for an Independence family made its way to Cedar Rapids on Sunday, just in time for the holidays.

Sue Spece's three children were born with rare genetic spinal disorders that require them to use wheelchairs. The family's home is not handicap accessible, and it has become increasingly difficult for Space to take care of the children now that they have grown.

The family was nominated for but not ultimately chosen last year for the television show "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," which enlists volunteers to build a home for deserving families.

But friends of the Speces, who own a craft and greenery store in Independence, have not given up on their dream of building the family a home that is accessible to wheelchairs.

"They are the best family I have met in a long time," said Cindy Bandy, a close family friend from Independence."They would never ask for help."

In January, the community formed a group under the name "Building a Dream in the Country." Since then, friends have held three large fundraisers. So far, $81,000 has been raised toward the $150,000 goal.

To kick off their fundraising this holiday season, friends created decorative snowmen to sell at markets across Eastern Iowa. On Sunday, their booth stopped by the NewBo City Market in Cedar Rapids.

"I couldn't even tell you how many hours we've put into this," said Bandy, who helped design and construct the snowmen. "It's a lot of work, but it's been so much fun."

The papercrete snowmen are made of a concrete and clay mixture then dressed with strips of old sweaters and buttons. So far, Bandy and other friends have made 500 snowmen and sold 300.

"We'd get together to make the bodies then dress them, face paint them and add the arms," said Kathy Finholt, also of Independence, leader of the fundraiser.

Finholt said fundraising efforts have slowed in the past several months. The organization is not a designated non-profit, and so is not eligible for tax exemptions.

"We don't qualify for that, so it's been a bit harder to get donations," Finholt explained.

But friends are hopeful that donations will start to build over the holidays.

"The kids are great and Sue is the most hardworking person I know," said Bandy. "They don't expect anything from anybody and that makes you want to do more for them."

The snowman booth will be back at NewBo City Market Dec. 9.
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