Wilton residents show out to Sip & Shop fundraiser for families dealing with pediatric cancer

WILTON — For Janet Montalvano of Wilton, struggling with not only the emotional toll of her daughter’s serious illness years ago, but the logistical details and financial strain were intense.

That’s why Montalvano — a dedicated volunteer with the Wilton-based Circle of Care nonprofit — organized Thursday’s Sip & Shop fundraiser event to help aid families suffering under similar circumstances.

“You’re speechless,” she said. “You’re like a zombie,” tied to the hospital, struggling to maintain an income and overwhelmed by the terror that your child is facing a life-threatening illness.

Along with raising funds for an organization that brings both financial and emotional support to Connecticut families facing the challenge of pediatric cancer treatment, Thursday’s 6th annual event was also about fun, community and getting an early start on some holiday shopping.

Held at the WEPCO Church, more than 25 local vendors took part, aiding donations during the all-day affair and helping to raise close to $25,000 for the organization.

“It’s a really well-run event,” said vendor Dana Freeman, founder of Thread & Knot, which features handmade jewelry and ornaments. “It’s a very nice showing for a good charity.”

She said customers were not only excited to make purchases, but also thrilled to be out amidst the community for the start of the holidays.

“A lot of people said they feel like they’re kicking off the season today,” Freeman added.

Suzanne Wilkins, of Wilton, has attended the event for several years and said she was pleased to be there once again.

“I think it’s fantastic,” she said. “Janet always does a great job and I never expect anything less.”

Along with her affinity for the cause, she utilizes its practicality, too.

“I always do a bunch of Christmas shopping and it’s a great place to get gifts for my daughter,” she said.

Liz Salguero, Circle of Care co-founder and executive director, praised Montalvano for her work organizing this event.

“It brings a tremendous amount of awareness to both pediatric cancer and the services that Circle of Care offers,” Salguero said of the Sip & Shop fundraiser.

She noted that fundraising is generally tough, but that this event afforded people the opportunity to have something more fun and joy-fillef.

Along with some live music late in the afternoon, there was also a veritable cornucopia of eatables, thanks to gratious contributions from several kitchens, including Susan Kane Catering of Fairfield, Uncle Leo’s of Wilton, Rye Ridge Deli in Westport and Planet Pizza of Norwalk.

“The event only gets better,” said co-founder and organization treasurer Dawn Ladenheim. “Janet Montalvano is amazing.”

Ladenheim also shared thoughts about the importance of their organization, which focuses on helping families that are struggling through what she described as an extremely lengthy treatment process.

“I don’t think people understand that treatment goes on for two to three years,” she said, noting it’s both long and isolating for families involved.

Through their various initiatives, she said, Circle of Care is able to bring some support and solace to families faced with the immensity of having a child with cancer.