In February, Kayla and Brandon Castro received news that no parent ever wants to hear. What should have been a routine checkup turned into a nightmare when the doctor told them that their son Everett, who was four months old at the time, suffered from Multiple Suture Craniosynostosis — a birth defect that caused his soft skull to fuse prematurely.
As the couple began to weigh their options, preparing for surgery and medical expenses, they were hit with more devastation. Three months later in May, Kayla had surgery to remove and biopsy a swollen lymph node in her neck and was diagnosed with cancer.
“Kayla is so strong even though she is going through so much. She is so positive; it’s truly inspirational."Salon Two Zero Nine owner Megan Morris
Now, the community is rushing to support the 25-year-old mother and her family in the face of their astronomical medical expenses and cost of living, as Brandon is on unpaid leave while caring for both Kayla and Everett. Over the weekend, an army of local businesses led by Salon Two Zero Nine came together, raising over $15,000 for the Castros.
“Kayla is so strong even though she is going through so much,” Salon Two Zero Nine owner Megan Morris said. “She is so positive; it’s truly inspirational.
“At the end of the day that could be any one of us…and no one fights alone.”
Before Kayla was diagnosed with her own medical battle, the community was already coming together to raise funds for Everett, Morris said.
Everett’s Craniosynostosis has closed two of the sutures in his skull and has almost closed a third, eliminating the soft skull tissue that typically allows a baby’s brain to grow and develop properly. Without surgery, the birth defect can lead to intracranial pressure, blindness, developmental delays, seizures and an extremely odd-shaped head.
“Then when I heard the news about Kayla, my head instantly started spinning with ideas of how we could help,” she added, explaining that Kayla is not only her cousin, but one of her stylist’s best friends as well. “She’s important to us.”
In a huge event, the fundraiser for the Castros sold T-shirts supporting the family that were donated by Crivelli’s Shirts & More and tri tip donated by Modesto Fish in Denair. Local vendors contributed to funds raised by paying to sell their goods at the event and Exit Realty allowed their space to be used for organizing a silent auction, which featured gift baskets and gift cards from businesses around town.
The Turlock Firefighters Local 2434 even stopped by the event, giving Everett the chance to sit in the driver’s seat of their engine. The group used their Random Acts of Kindness Program to provide a financial donation to the Castro family as well, and stylists from Salon Two Zero Nine provided styles, braids, spray color and cuts for attendees, with all proceeds going to the Castros.
“I had no idea the fundraiser would be so big,” Kayla said. “We were truly amazed to see how our friends, family and complete strangers came out to support, donate or work in the heat.”
Kayla is set to begin chemotherapy on Wednesday, and Everett is currently seeing doctors at the University of California, San Francisco, as they believe there are other diagnoses in addition to the Craniosynostosis. This may delay his original surgery date, but the Castros are hoping for the best in both situations.
“It’s a long journey ahead, but everyone’s prayers are carrying us through,” Kayla said.
While the Castros do not have a Go Fund Me account set up, Morris said that community members looking to help can send donations to Salon Two Zero Nine (430 Crane Ave.) and they will be delivered to the family. More fundraisers are in the works, she added.
“Life is short. Hug your friends and family every day, and remember that you are not alone,” Morris said. “Our community is incredible and there are people who are willing to take on your burdens with you.”