Benefit for Belle

Event raises $5,500 for Camas woman who is recovering from a severe stroke

On Dec. 31, 2011, Belle Mathieu’s life changed forever when she suffered a severe brain stem stroke as she was getting ready to go for a walk with a friend.

The 30-year-old Camas resident was left with brain damage — unable to talk, walk, read or write. Slowly, through her own determination and effort, however, she has made some incredible progress.

“I forced myself to walk, read and write again,” she said. “It is just by the grace of God that I am here. It’s a miracle.”

But the complete recovery process will take some time and Mathieu, who co-owns A Twist On Time with her parents Tony and Debra Sampson, is uninsured. Her bills have continued to mount.

“They say you are one emergency away from losing everything,” she said. “They are right.”

On Sunday, a benefit auction and concert organized by a committee that included friends Rachel Phelan and Peter Arvidson aimed to help lighten Mathieu’s financial burden.

The event was emceed by Washougal resident and local business owner Shannon Van Horn, and performers included Ana Rodriguez, Hayley Redinger, Elsa Faith of Soul Distraction, Arvidson with Josh Myer and Phelan; Russell Stafford of Crown Point and The BobbyLee® Experience.

According to Carrie Schulstad, who owns The Uncommon Gift in downtown Camas, there were 93 items donated for the silent auction by local individuals and businesses. Columbia Litho contributed the printing of the flyers and counter cards for advertising.

The event drew more than 100 people to Journey Community Church and raised more than $5,500 — exceeding initial goals.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better turnout,” Arvidson said. “It was a phenomenal night. The whole community was out.”

Mathieu said she will use the money for items that will make her day-to-day life a little easier — like paying for a leg brace and the walker she must now use to get around.

“It’s just incredible to see a community come together in a time of need,” she said. “What was raised will help me tremendously.”

During the event, Arvidson and Rodriguez performed a song written by Mathieu titled “Into the Water,” which reflects her experience on the operating table after suffering the stroke, and teetering between life and death.

“I was honored to play it,” said Arvidson, who first met Mathieu in October 2011 at a Halloween party.

Arvidson, who has been Belle’s roommate since her stroke, said her recovery has been incredible to witness.

“Her pure determination is amazing,” he said.

The benefit itself reflected the determination of Mathieu’s friends, family members and fellow business owners to come together and give her much needed support — both financial and emotional.

“The event was wonderful,” Schulstad said. “[There was] all sorts of love going around.”

Despite the rough road that Mathieu has traveled and that likely lies ahead, she remains upbeat.

“I feel like I have a glow or a light about me,” she said. “I think what I went through was a beautiful transition. This is not the end of my life. It’s about creating something new.”

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