A 9:30 p.m. call on Dec. 8 brought news that the family of Vladislav and Svetlana Khashchuk now considers a Christmas miracle.
They won a money tree, the No. 1 package with $4,500 cash at this year’s Christmas Tree Elegance. The gift arrived a month after the couple launched a GoFundMe to help pay for a new diabetes treatment for two of their children.
Slavik, 9, and Jacob, 6, both have Type 1 diabetes. The couple say they will use the prize money to offset some of the thousands it will cost to get the boys into future stem cell treatments for diabetes, an emerging medical therapy that has shown some positive results.
“The kids have been praying to raise money for their stem cell treatment, so we told the kids the next morning, ‘Look, the Lord heard your prayers. We won, and we won the one tree with cash, not another tree but this one specifically,’” said Svetlana Khashchuk, 33.
“So it seems like a miracle. The box is this tall full of tickets. What are the chances of winning?”
The stem cell treatment can run $7,000 to $10,000 per patient, the couple said, and some people need more than one treatment.
Their other children, a son Alexander, 11, and daughter Abigail, 8, don’t have diabetes. Slavik and Jacob require constant monitoring of their blood sugar and regular insulin injections, and the couple worries about how the disease can cause long-term health problems.
Type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disease, means the body’s immune system destroys insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Slavik, diagnosed five years ago, has an insulin pump attached to his arm. Jacob, a kindergartener, was diagnosed four months ago. He gets insulin shots.
“I’ve been looking into stem cell treatments for their diabetes,” Svetlana Khashchuk said. “They’re the hot new treatment everybody’s talking about. I’ve heard there is hope to better their lives with the treatment; you might be able to reduce the amount of insulin they’re on and prevent further damage …
“We were hoping to do the treatment for them just to give them a better life basically.”
But last weekend, the Khashchuks were focused only on enjoying the holidays with a family night out and a stop at the Davenport Hotel. They also took in the carriage ride downtown, and the kids got their picture with Santa at River Park Square.
“That was our first time going to the Davenport to see the trees, and we went for the kids just for fun,” she said.
So on Dec. 7, she bought a $25 set of $1 Christmas Tree Elegance raffle tickets. She gave most to their kids to put them where they wanted among bins for 12 decorated trees with prizes displayed along the Davenport’s mezzanine. Turns out, the Khashchuks mostly all gravitated to the No. 1 tree, they said.
Vladislav Khashchuk, 32, thought his wife was joking when she first told him they won. The event raises funds to support the Spokane Symphony and is organized by Spokane Symphony Associates.
The group this year hit another record with 430,000 raffle tickets purchased in hopes of one of 18 trees, displayed at the Davenport and River Park Square. Organizers say tree No. 1, “Poetry in Motion,” attracted 45,000 to 50,000 tickets.
“That box was the fullest, because everyone wanted that tree,” Vladislav Khashchuk said. “It was an answer to our prayers. It’s a miracle. How is it that out of all these people, the Lord decided we were the family that needed it the most?”
When the call came, Svetlana Khashchuk was the only one who hadn’t gone to bed. She nearly ignored it. The family was resting after a full day of getting a Christmas tree and decorating it.
“I thought who is calling me so late?” she recalled. “Then it keeps ringing and it’s a local number, so I thought what if it’s an emergency? So I picked it up.”
Informed of the win, she at first thought someone was kidding her. “They asked if we could come pick up it tomorrow, which would be Sunday, at 8 in the morning.
“I started running around to see who was awake to tell them. All the kids were out except for Slavik so I told him, ‘Slavik, we won the tree, the one we wanted to win with the cash.’ ”
Her husband was half asleep and barely heard her, until she kept talking about making plans for the next day. “He finally wakes up and says, ‘Wait, what?’ ”
After picking up the cash money orders and the red-and-silver decorated tree wrapped in plastic, they took it to display at Svetlana Khashchuk’s Spokane Valley business, Beauty by Slevanta, because they already had their family tree at home.
She is an esthetician doing permanent makeup and eyelash extensions. Her husband works as a granite fabricator.
Both of them came to the U.S. as children with family members originally from Ukraine. She was 4 when her family first moved to Fresno, California, and then when she was about 7, they moved to Spokane. He came directly to Spokane at age 12 and attended North Pines Middle School.
It was a surprise to them that their kids have Type 1 diabetes. They never had the disease and don’t have any relatives who do. The couple says that because they didn’t recognize symptoms at first, Slavik ended up in the hospital for a few days because of dehydration and being malnourished.
They did see the signs, however, for Jacob when he started being thirsty a lot, urinating frequently and becoming irritated when he’s normally mellow, his mom said. The kids have health insurance, but it doesn’t cover a stem cell treatment.
After winning the Christmas Tree Elegance prize, they reduced their GoFundMe goal to $25,000.
Svetlana Khashchuk also had separately created a raffle basket with about $1,000 worth of beauty products and local business gift certificates. Each ticket is $40, she said, with proceeds to go strictly for the treatments.
On their GoFundMe, the couple says they looked at different options, spending money on medical costs and visiting doctors, nutritionists and naturopaths.
“They say with diabetes, you can’t get rid of it, but you need to keep them healthy,” Vladislav Khashchuk said. “We’re trying to give them the nutrition they need and everything we can to keep them healthy …
“Now, there is the stem cell treatment that sounds promising that at least if it doesn’t cure them, maybe it will boost the immune system to not incur the damage it can cause.”
The Khashchuks will have other Christmas presents under their tree, but the family is still awed by the biggest gift of all. The parents both were raised in musical families, playing instruments and singing, so they wanted to support the symphony.
“I’m very grateful for this event, and it kind of happened that we went to support the Spokane Symphony, and in return we’re getting support,” said Svetlana Khashchuk.
“We didn’t go there to win the tree,” her husband added. “We’ve never won anything like this. For Christmas, it’s big. We’re so thankful.”
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