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Jewelry fundraiser to help cover families' medical expenses

COVINGTON — Krystle Donald can't help but believe God had a hand in her meeting Emily Schneider.

Neither woman thought they would wind up selling jewelry to make a living, but Donald found herself in need of additional income when her husband Ray was diagnosed with Cryptogenic Cirrhosis, a liver disease of mysterious origin, at age 33. Donald knew the day would come when Ray could no longer work to support her and their young daughter. Ray Donald is a manager at Covington Automotive Repair Service.

Though she barely wears jewelry herself, Donald felt inspired when she attended a party for Premier Jewelry and found herself telling her husband she wanted to start selling the brand.

Emily Schneider had no interest in going to a jewelry party, but a friend urged her to come to Donald's party back in 2009. The women clicked instantly and became close friends. Schneider, who said she dislikes home parties, felt compelled to start hosting them herself and became a salesperson for Premier a month after attending Donald's party.

In the two years that have followed, the women have grown as tight as sisters, and they now share much more in common than jewelry: Schneider's father, Bill Hardy, owner of Hardy's Floor Covering in Covington, was diagnosed with end stage liver disease, and, just like Ray Donald, was told he would need a transplant to survive.

"Looking back yet again on that night we met, God knew that we would need each other for more than just Premier. Emily was so scared and nervous about her daddy's condition and (God) allowed for us to have an amazing friendship and allow me to help her in every way I could," Donald said. "God has given me supernatural strength throughout this journey with Ray, and a part of (God's) grace and love was and is able to help me love Emily, to encourage her, support her, reassure her, emotionally, spiritually, and even with the doctors. We were able to get her dad into the same office and hospital where Ray went."

As the men's conditions become more dire, the two families are joining together for a fundraiser to generate money for medical treatment. They are hosting a yard sale at Grace Baptist Church at 474 Crowell Road in Porterdale on Saturday. The event will begin at 8 a.m. and last as long as customers are buying.

The families have been soliciting donations and have quite a selection of furniture, clothing, exercise equipment, toys and more. The yard sale will take place inside the church's air conditioned fellowship hall so shoppers can linger as long as they want and keep cool, Donald said.

Information about LifeLink of Georgia, a nonprofit organization that promotes organ donation, will be provided at the event, and shoppers can sign up to be organ donors.

Proceeds will be split 50-50 between the families to cover medical expenses before and after the transplants. Even with insurance covering part of the cost, post-transplant medications are expected to run between $1,000 and $3,000 per month. That's for one medication; the men will likely have to be on two to three for life.

Hardy, who is in the process of being put on the national transplant list, has three grown children and six grandchildren. The Donalds have a 4-year-old daughter, Ansley. Patients are prioritized based on a score indicating the probability of death within three months if a transplant is not performed. Scores range from 6 to 40, with 12 indicating the need for a transplant. Ray Donald is now at an 18, sometimes rising has high as a 21.

"The only thing we have to turn to is our faith. We would go mad if we were depressed about it all day. We know God has a reason this is happening. Even though we get sad and we don't understand, we know there's a reason and that keeps us strong and motivated," Donald said.

In addition to the yard sale, a nonprofit has been set up in the Donalds' name to receive charitable contributions. Donations can be made at any BB&T Bank and will be split between the two families, Donald said. To verify the account, give the Donalds' address: 1360 Stag Run Drive, Mansfield, GA, 30055. Donations may also be sent directly to the family at their home.