Chelsea Wheeler wants to grow up to be a chef.
The 11-year-old Oxford, Connecticut girl loves watching the Food Network and prepping meals for her family —
but she can't eat them.
Her aunt, Romeoville resident Keri Kikta, hopes a life-saving small bowel transplant will change that, and she's organizing a local fundraiser to help the youngster's family with medical expenses.
Chelsea's mom — Kikta's sister-in-law — grew up in Downers Grove, where the family lived until relocating to Connecticut.
On Saturday, March 22, the Romeoville Recreation Center, 900 W. Romeo Road, will host the Basketball 4 Chelsea tournament.
All ages are welcome, and teams will be divided amongst age groups with blind draft. The event is set for 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and will include prizes, raffles, concessions and a performance by the Romeoville Razzlers.
To get involved, contact Kikta at email@example.com.
According to Kikta, Chelsea has been diagnosed with pseudo obstruction, causing her to go into irreversible intestinal failure. Since October 2012, she's been total parenteral nutrition (TPN) dependent, meaning she relies on IV feedings to survive.
"She can't digest any food," Kikta said. "She can't eat anything."
IV feedings are rough on her organs, so Chelsea's best option is a small bowel transplant.
The Connecticut youngster is currently on the National Organ Transplant waiting list. Kikta said she's scheduled to have the surgery at the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.
"We are trying to cover whatever insurance doesn't cover," Kikta said, estimating the costs of the surgery and post-surgery care will be over $1 million.
Chelsea will likely be in the hospital for several months after the transplant, and she and her mother will have to get an apartment in Pittsburgh, where they'll stay for as long as six months so that she can get follow-up care at the hospital.
In addition to the March 22 fundraiser event, area residents can help Chelsea by donating on her page on the Children's Organ Transplant Association website at
You can also learn more about Chelsea's medical journey on a
Facebook page set up for the youngster.