Parish supports youth, family during cancer battle

Krysty Wolniak-Bujakowska, front, in wheelchair, spends time with friends during a benefit dinner last month at St. Thomas More Parish in Coralville. Krysty, 11, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma last September.

By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger

CORALVILLE — The St. Thomas More Parish community is rallying around a young parishioner who is battling bone cancer.

Krysty Wolniak-Bujakowska, 11, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma last September and has undergone chemotherapy treatments and several blood transfusions at the University of Iowa’s Stead Family Children’s Hospital in Iowa City. In January, she had surgery to remove and replace her femur and part of her knee with a titanium expandable prosthesis.

Krysty and her family — mom Kate, dad Michal and brother Stan — assumed they would face the cancer battle alone. “We don’t have any relatives in the U.S. who could support us or give us a hand when we need it,” said Kate, noting that the family emigrated from Poland to the U.S. eight years ago.


Over the past several months, parishioners, friends and strangers have assisted Krysty and her family, providing a pillar of strength during a difficult time. Friend and parishioner Meliza Wise set up a GoFundMe account for Krysty earlier this year. So far, people have donated more than $22,500 to offset treatment costs. The parish and greater Coralville community also organized vegan meal deliveries for Krysty and her family.

Last month, a benefit dinner, “Songs for Krysty,” took place at the parish. Wise organized the event along with music minister Luigi Enriquez and Blanca Lehnertz, a parishioner who is also Krysty’s swim coach. “Our goal was to offer continued support and encouragement to Krysty and her family,” Wise said.

The parish’s Knights of Columbus council donated and served burgers and hot dogs to more than 100 people. The program included many of Krysty’s favorite songs sung by classmates from Wickham Elementary in Coralville, swim teammates and St. Thomas More parishioners. The audience joined in for “Lean on Me,” with everyone “singing, dancing and having a good time,” Wise said. The concert ended with “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” from the movie “Toy Story.”

The event raised about $3,000 for Krysty’s care. “It was so uplifting to see the outpouring of community and church support for this young lady,” Wise said. Perhaps the biggest blessing of the night was Krysty’s presence. Although she continues to undergo treatments, “she was able to attend the event and feel everyone’s love and support,” Lehnertz said. “Our prayers were answered.”

Krysty’s mom said the event was a huge morale booster. “It is amazing that friends, neighbors, Krysty’s schoolmates and swim teammates and even the church community —some people don’t know us at all — came together and showed so much love.”

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