Bowling for baby Beck

15-month-old Emilee Beck is the benefactor of a fund-raiser Sunday at All Star Lanes & Casino. - Photo courtesy of Charlie Beck
15-month-old Emilee Beck is the benefactor of a fund-raiser Sunday at All Star Lanes & Casino.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Charlie Beck

t All Star Lanes looking for strike at benefit tourney.

Emilee Beck may not outweigh a bowling ball by much, but she’s got support lining the lanes.

All Star Lanes & Casino will host a benefit bowling tournament and silent auction this Sunday at 9:30 a.m. for 15-month-old Emilee Beck, who has a complex congenital heart disease that’s left her with about three-quarters of a heart and will eventually force her to get a heart transplant. And while her parents, Shawn Beck and Sue Stayrook, say she’s been handling her condition OK of late, it’s a question of when, not if, she’ll need the surgery.

“She’s definitely going to need a transplant,” Shawn Beck said. “There’s no surgical alternative other than a transplant. It’s a timing thing. When she starts showing signs, that’s when she’ll need it.”

Shawn Beck, the mechanic at All Star for 22 years, and Stayrook, who works at Bremerton’s Ace Paving Company, have had a lot to worry about when it comes to their daughter. Her heart condition is made worse as she essentially lives with a single lung (the veins are very small in her left lung, leaving her right as the operable lung). In fact, she may need a lung transplant at some point as well.

But for now, both parents said their daughter is your average 15-month-old.

“She’s happy-go-lucky,” Stayrook said. “She’s got an attitude.”

“Really, if you were to see her, her head’s a little bigger than most babies and her body is a little smaller,” Shawn said. “But other than that, she looks like a normal baby.”

With Shawn working at All Star and Stayrook a league regular on the lanes, the benefit tournament seemed a no-brainer for All Star’s Jim Monahan, who said the alley has hosted numerous benefits in the past.

“Instead of being out washing cars, we’re being inside having fun,” Monahan said. “We’re putting the fun back in fund-raiser.”

While each of Emilee’s grandparents have been a huge help, grandfather Charlie Beck has been instrumental in helping the family balance medical costs by helping organize various fund-raisers and silent auctions. In fact, last weekend the family benefited from $4,500 from a Safeway fund-raiser and saw a packed house at a silent auction at Outback Steakhouse.

“It’s amazing,” Stayrook said of the outpouring of support. “It’s just totally amazing how many good people are still out there.”

“They were tremendous,” Charlie Beck added. “We told them what we wanted to do. They said, ‘Hey, were here for the community.’ Now we’re been working on getting this bowling tournament going.”

Which won’t be too hard considering the family’s bowling ties.

“95 percent of ’em know Shawn Beck from being here,” Monahan said of area bowlers. “And we thought it’d be a fun way to end the season too.”

“It’s one huge family,” Stayrook added of the area bowling community. “I’m lucky to be a part of it. Everyone there has just been so supportive throughout this whole thing.”

But after all, that’s what community is all about, Monahan said.

“He’s one of the neatest guys I’ve ever met,” he said. “Sue’s a big league bowler. They’re good people. We’re just trying to help ’em raise some money. To have to watch Emily go through this at such a young age, it’s pretty frightening really.”

Currently, Emilee is undergoing monthly check-ups to make sure her condition isn’t worsening. So far, she’s continued to grow like a normal infant. In fact, she began walking just last week.

“We’re waiting month-to-month,” Shawn said. “If they see any drop in her oxygen levels, if she’s looking blue, then that’s a telltale sign we need to do something. As long as she’s growing and her oxygen levels are doing good. We want her to be as big and strong as possible before the heart transplant.”

Ideally, that transplant can be put off as long as possible, possibly even into Emilee’s teens. Her lung stability remains a concern as well, as Shawn said just five hospitals in the United States can handle a heart and lung transplant, the closest in Berkeley, Calif. That’s another reason the family is glad Emilee’s condition has been stable of late.

“It helps keep it more local too,” he said. “A heart and lung transplant, there’s only five places in the U.S. that do it.”

Because of the monitoring needed of the condition, the family would likely have to move to wherever the surgeries are carried out, even though they just purchased a home locally a little more than a year ago.

“We want to keep her here and do what we can here,” Shawn said. “But we have to do what we have to do.

“We might have to move,” he continued. “It all depends on how she does. She’s a little on the small side, but nothing we’re too concerned about right now.”

Emilee is no stranger to extensive surgeries thanks to her condition. She’s already undergone open-heart surgery. But both her parents said that so far it hasn’t impacted Emilee.

“She has no idea,” Shawn said. “She plays just as hard as any other kid her age.”

“It’s nice to know she’s holding her own,” Stayrook added.

In fact, the family’s been more impacted than Emilee herself so far.

“It’s particularly hard on my wife (Janice),” Charlie Beck said. “It’s not easy. You just try to do what you can, what’s important.”

After all, in learning more about the condition and spending a lot of time in hospitals, Shawn said life could be much worse for his daughter.

“I’ve seen a lot of kids with the same problem who are not nearly as fortunate as she’s been,” he said.

That’s made awareness of the condition another goal for the family.

“Unfortunately (people don’t realize) how commonly this tends to rear its ugly head,” Stayrook said. “I’ve met three people in the community that are experiencing this or have. I’d love to make people more aware.”

While the monthly doctor visits take their own financial toll on the family, its the impending surgeries that will leave the biggest mark. That’s what’s made the outpouring of community support even better.

“It’s great,” Charlie Beck said. “It does a lot to take some worry off of them as far as what’s going to happen to them in the future, financially.”

Both parents’ employers have been supportive as well in terms of giving time off and helping out by donating goods for silent auctions or in the case of the alley, the lanes themselves.

“They’ve always helped me out when I needed it,” Shawn Beck said of All Star Lanes. “It kind of reinforces why I’ve stayed here this long. It’s the people I work for.”

“They’ve been absolutely wonderful,” Stayrook added of Ace Paving.

Sunday’s silent auction, which includes donations from Ace Pacing, Hi-Joy and All Star Lanes, bowling balls, gift certificates and more, begins at 9:30 a.m. at All Star. It will continue until 1:30 p.m. or 45 minutes after the tournament concludes. The tournament is scheduled to being at 10 a.m. Entry cost is $75 with $15 going into the prize pool and $60 going to the Emilee Beck Heart Fund.

For more information on registering for the tournament, contact All Star Lanes & Casino at (360) 692-5760.

Monahan said they’re hoping to get 100 bowlers out.

“I just hope we can get a nice-sized crowd out to enjoy the tournament, come out to the silent auction and help support,” Charlie Beck added.

With benefits helping out, Shawn Beck said they can focus on Emilee’s future, which is still what concerns them most.

“For me, it’s just not knowing,” he said. “I get concerned about what’s in store for her future. I just hope it never gets any worse. I just want her to live as much of a normal childhood as she can.”

With technological advances growing seemingly more impressive with each passing day, Charlie Beck said with a little luck, Emilee and people like her won’t have to suffer through the condition.

“She’s of that generation,” he said. “It gives me a lot of hope that Emilee’s got a chance.”

Which is all anyone has asked for.

“She’s just been doing so well so far,” Shawn said. “I have a lot of confidence she’s gonna be fine.

“Hopefully she can just be a normal kid.”

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