Winterfest fundraiser for Stella this Saturday

Daughter of Deer Lake teacher Paul Heppleston on the mend

Paul Hutchings
Published on February 12, 2014
Stella Heppleston

Stella Heppleston has turned a corner, but more help is still vital to the family’s well-being, say the organizers of a fundraiser breakfast at the Pentecostal Church this Saturday morning.

The six-year-old daughter of Elwood High School teacher Paul Heppleston was diagnosed with a brain tumor last summer, resulting in heartbreaking times for her family.

The brain tumor caused the child to lose her ability to speak and walk, among other functions, and she has been at the Janeway Hospital in St. John’s ever since. Her grandmother, Christine Preston of Deer Lake, said her granddaughter has been doing much better in the past few weeks.

Preston found it difficult to get into too much detail, but she said her family is grateful for everyone’s help.

“We’re just overwhelmed with the support we have received,” she said. “It’s not just from here, it’s coming in from all over the place. We’re really pleased.”

She said Stella can move her arms now and signal with some hand gestures. Despite the modest improvements, the little girl will have some work ahead of her.

“It’s going to be tough but we’ll get her through it,” she said. “There are issues that we need to get past of course, but we’re happy that (Stella) is doing better.”

Related: "Songs for Stella" fundraiser

Last fall Heppleston’s friend, St. John’s singer/songwriter Larry Stamp, organized a fundraising show with several local musicians in St. John’s. It helped raise awareness of the dire situation and donations for the family have been pouring in from across the island.

One of the organizers of this weekend’s event, Clarence White of Deer Lake, said just because we have a public health care system doesn’t mean the family isn’t in the clear financially.

“There’s a lot to consider, like lodging and driving back and forth, plus there are other family members, they have to take time off from work,” said White. “These are really good people and we felt we had to do something for them.”

Heppleston is a substitute teacher who has become known for producing musical events featuring kids’ performances in a series called “Mr. H. Presents: An Open Stage for the Underage.”

He was unavailable for an interview as he was with his daughter in St. John’s, but told the media last fall that the prognosis was good. Doctors removed the tumor last year from Stella’s brain stem.

Preston said her granddaughter is now on the road to recovery.

This Saturday’s fundraiser will take place at Deer Lake’s Pentecostal Church on Bennett Avenue at 8 a.m. Stella’s grandfather, Doug Preston, will be in attendance to speak.

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