Hayden Daze will benefit Zabels

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— When Gina Zabel heard the news that her youngest daughter Taylen, 7, had a brain tumor, she was "hysterical." Gina's husband Ty Zabel and oldest daughter Tyanna, 11, were crying as well. The only composed person in the room was Taylen herself, who patted her mom's leg and told her everything would be okay, Gina said.

"Brave" and "tough" are two words that quickly come up when talking about Taylen, who was diagnosed with a highly malignant brain tumor known as medulloblastoma on April 9. The tumor was removed on April 12. Taylen just finished with radiation treatment, and will begin chemotherapy later this month.

During the Hayden Daze celebration Saturday, July 21, friends of the Zabels will host benefit events to help the family with the medical expenses associated with Taylen's treatment. There will be a yard sale, silent auction, dunk tank and live auction.

Rhonda Sweetser, Hayden Elementary School principal and an organizer of the benefit, said the benefit is friends' "way to help out and show them how much we love and care for them."

"When something like this happens your heart breaks and you want to do something," Sweetser said. "It was quite the shock to the whole school and community."

Gina said her family has been "amazed by the outpouring of kindness," but that it hasn't always been easy to accept. As educators, Gina said she and Ty are used to being the ones helping others out while not needing help themselves. Gina is the principal of Hayden Middle School and Ty teaches history and coaches wrestling at Hayden High School.

"It's never been us," Gina said. "It's been hard for us to accept the help."

Gina said the family has learned a lot from Taylen because she is so strong. Learning to lean on others is just one of those things.

"It's nice of the Zabels to let us do this as friends," Sweetser said. "Sometimes it's hard to accept everyone's love and generosity."

Gina said the family has also learned to focus more on small things and to "not sweat the small stuff."

Gina said Taylen is doing well. She can still read and understands all the things she used to. Physically, Taylen's balance is off and Gina said they hope she gains weight before starting chemotherapy. She weighs less than 40 pounds. Taylen's 10 chemotherapy treatments will begin July 25 in Denver and conclude in June 2008.

Gina said the family is going to "celebrate" after that and is looking forward to a trip to Disney World that Taylen was granted by the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

"Her biggest dream is to see Cinderella," Gina said.

Sweetser said Taylen is a caring girl that likes to joke and is often seen carrying a favorite stuffed bunny.

"She's the type that if you could have 50 of her you would," Sweetser said. "She's just real easy to be around."

Gina said that one of her daughter's strongest attributes is her enjoyment of academics.

"She's very light-hearted and energetic and very loving," Gina said. "And she loves school."

Sweetser said many local businesses have donated items for the benefit's yard sale and auctions. Some items include bikes, gift certificates, savings bonds, candles, hunting gear, massages, gravel, pictures and framed prints. For more information about the Benefit for Taylen Zabel, contact Rhonda Sweetser at 276-4316 or Gayle Zimmerman at 629-2065.

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