DUNKIRK - A 29-year old Brocton woman dreamed of living her life to the fullest until one day her life took a tragic turn.
Sara (Peck) Randall wanted to serve her country, enjoyed playing volleyball with her friends and was a science major in North Carolina.
Randall suffers from inflammatory bowel disease, which is an autoimmune disease. Her first surgery in 2008, was a total colectomy (the removal of her entire large intestines and colon) and ever since she has been in and out of the hospital with more than 40 surgeries.
Lori Cullinan, Sara's mom, said she is has been in and out of the hospital frequently since she was 20.
Several of her friends put together a benefit for her in order to raise money to help with the thousands of dollars Randall owes in hospital bills.
The benefit will be held Saturday from 1-8 p.m. at the Dom Polski Club, located at 179 Lake Shore Drive in Dunkirk. There will be a silent auction, motorcycle run, live music by Paul Alguire and a spaghetti dinner. The $10 dinner ticket includes the live entertainment.
The motorcycle run registration begins at noon and starts at 1 p.m. The cost for a single rider is $15, the cost for a rider with a passenger is $20.
Sara, Cullinan said, has made a good group of friends who are going through the same illness.
"There are so many people in need," she said. "She made friends through an IBD group."
One of these friends is a talented photographer, who Cullinan feels is an amazingly strong young woman like her daughter. Melissa Jentzsch is from Washington and met Randall in person in October 2013.
"They support each other, did surgery together and have really stayed in touch the last five years," Cullinan said. "She did a really beautiful photo shoot of Sara."
Randall has always loved volleyball, and became the captain of her college volleyball team. Once she joined the volleyball team she had a leak in her intestines, which caused her to be hospitalized. She came out of surgery and went right back to the team; working hard to be captain.
"Sara pushes herself," Cullinan said. "She doesn't want to give up."
Justin Cleary met Randall several months ago through a mutual friend, but after joining their volleyball team Randall was hospitalized again.
"She is so sick, her social life has been cut short," Cleary said. "It is hard for her to keep in touch with her friends."
Randall had been in St. Vincent's Hospital in Erie, Pa., since early July; to have part of her ovaries taken out and her ileostomy reversed for the third time. She had complications with her small intestines after her eight big surgeries, so she was being held at the hospital for further treatment. After 10 weeks she has come home and is doing much better.
"The illness has taken everything away from her since she was 20 years old," Cullinan said. "It just keeps taking and taking. She is amazing; it would break your heart to see how much she suffers all the time."
Jennifer Depasquale has only known Randall about a year, but felt moved to put together this benefit for her friend.
"He (Cleary) is my sidekick in making this happen," Depasquale said. "After everything she has been though she deserved this benefit. She has been through hell and back."
"She is very strong," she continued. "Sara is very excited and thankful about the benefit. She really wants to help and is very appreciative of everyone wanting to help her."
After two years of serving her country ... Randall got sick and was honorably discharged from the army. She did not receive any medical benefits for her service.
Depasquale put together a small committee of friends and family to help plan this benefit. She made a flyer, wrote up a donation letter and made it male-friendly.
"We wanted to aim towards men," she said. "Her little brother is a huge hunter and knew a guy from Sinclairville who will auction off a gun. Everything is usually aimed toward women at these things. We wanted to change it up a bit."
"The motorcycle run is a big thing," Depasquale continued. "Her mother works at the prison so one of the guards is selling tickets at the jail. I own a motorcycle and thought this would be a good idea. The Sons of Liberty are veterans who contacted me interested in helping one of their own. They have been such a big help."
Cullinan is very moved by people helping her daughter.
"I don't know a lot of these people who stepped up to do this," she said. "They are caring people who really impressed me. This is wonderful."
"So many times when you are going through this you feel so alone," Cullinan continued. "People go on with their lives and you feel forgotten. It is nice to know people care."
Having met most of the friends planning the benefit at the Dom Polski Club, Randall feels that is a good place to have it.
"Somehow my mind made it all okay," Randall said about moving back home. "I knew I had to be here in order to get better."
Even though she misses North Carolina, a place she called home for 10 years, Randall likes having her mom and brother around.
"I really appreciate everything they are doing for me," she said. "I can't wait to see everyone. I really hope I can make it to the benefit."
Although the army was important to her, Randall doesn't want the focus to be on that.
"I am really proud of that part of my life, but it is over," she said. "That is not what this benefit is about. It is about my disease. That part of my life is so far behind me; this is my life now."
For those who may be suffering like Randall she wants them all to keep positive.
"Just keep moving forward," she said. "Eventually you will come out on the other end."
"I am hoping Sara can get on the motorcycle with me," Depasquale said. "If not I will try to get a big photo of her to put in the front. I will be in the back of the line. I want to take it all in. It is going to be awesome."