Two residents of Santa Ynez have teamed up to host a drawing designed to help the family of a 6-year-old Lompoc resident undergoing chemotherapy for a brain tumor.
Joy Reinhardt, chef/owner of Ellie’s Tap & Vine, and Ken Adam, her friend and one of Ellie’s regulars, want to assist the family of Kristina Labarr, who is a server at Ellie’s and mother to 6-year-old Brock Labarr.
Many area wineries, restaurants, businesses and individuals — among them Loring Wine Co., Seagrape Wine, Liquid Farm, Stolpman Vineyards, Story of Soil, Arrowsmith’s Wine Bar, The Baker’s Table and The Plant Shoppe in Solvang — have donated prizes for the drawing, Adam said.
“Everyone’s been very generous with donations, as many of them are locals or customers and know Kristina and Brock’s story,” Reinhardt said.
Tickets for the drawing are $30 each or two for $50, and they’re available at Ellie’s Tap & Vine, 3640 Sagunto St. in Santa Ynez. Labarr said she would return in person for the drawing in late April on a day that her mother can cover for her and sit with Brock.
Reinhardt suggested purchasing tickets at Ellie’s with cash or Venmo directly to Kristina Labarr, whose account is @kristinalabarr. All of the proceeds raised from the drawing will go directly to Labarr, Reinhardt said. Her restaurant is open Tuesday through Saturday.
Brock is fighting a rare type of cancer called posterior fossa anaplastic ependymoma, which triggers tumors in the brain or spinal cord. While these cancers occur in both children and adults, ependymoma is the third most common type of childhood brain tumor, according to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Childhood ependymoma represents about 9% of all childhood brain and spinal cord tumors, or about 200 cases per year in the United States, according to the National Cancer Institute.
Kristina Labarr recalled when, late last summer, she and her husband — also named Brock — first knew that their son, then 5, was very ill.
“He had a brain bleed, and his eyes were vibrating up and down, and side to side. That was our first sign that something was wrong,” she said.
Young Brock was taken to the emergency room at Lompoc Valley Medical Center and transported by helicopter to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, Reinhardt said. In December 2021, he had the tumor removed.
After the surgery came radiation, which Brock endured “like a champ,” but his doctors also recommended chemotherapy, which has been rough.
“Chemotherapy is not our friend,” Kristina Labarr said.
Her son is undergoing a course of combination chemotherapy that will be given in blocks over four months. He needs to be admitted to the hospital for one week for the “long haul” treatment, but the other involves just “a quick drip” that takes only about 10 minutes, Kristina Labarr said.
The day we spoke (April 7) had been a “rough” chemo day for Brock.
“He kept running his fingers through his hair, pulling at it, so we ended up just shaving his head,” she said.
She started waiting tables at Ellie’s in February 2021, and “it’s been a wonderful year. Joy’s a good person and a wonderful chef.”
As anyone fighting a serious illness can attest, smaller costs — fuel, food, lodging and child care — add up quickly. While Labarr returned to Ellie’s for a couple of December weekend shifts, she’s been at Brock’s side ever since. Her husband has remained in Lompoc to care for their daughter, Riley, who is 10.
Her application for assistance from the Family Medical Leave Act was denied when Brock’s doctor mistakenly left off key information. With the help of the hospital’s social worker, she reapplied and hopes to be approved soon.