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West County Restaurant Week raises the bar on charity fundraising

Eating good food and helping people in need are two things with which most people can get on board. The seventh annual West County Restaurant Week, from Oct. 9-15, gives area residents the opportunity to do exactly that.

The week benefits Friends of Kids with Cancer, a charity with a 25-year history of operating exclusively in St. Louis and whose mission is to “help kids with cancer … be kids.”

There are 14 West County restaurants participating in the event this year: Balaban’s, Bishop’s Post, Bravo!, Cooper’s Hawk, Charlie Gitto’s From the Hill, Gianfabio’s, Joey B’s, McCormick & Schmick’s, The Melting Pot, Satchmo’s, Surf & Surloin, Vito’s in the Valley, Walnut Grill and Ya Ya’s Euro Bistro. In addition, Farotto’s, located in Rock Hill but still catering to West County, will participate in the event.

Each restaurant offers special menus and pricing for the week. Customers can enjoy a three-course meal for around $30, plus tax and gratuity. The price includes an automatic $5 donation to Friends of Kids with Cancer.

“While supporting a great cause, you’re going to eat at high-end restaurants in West County for a deal,” said Rob Muckler, owner of The Event Co., the company producing the event.

Friends of Kids with Cancer is unique in that all money raised through donations, grants and events stays in the St. Louis area. By eating a meal at a participating restaurant, diners can be assured their money is directly benefiting the community around them.

“We like to support local organizations that keep money in St. Louis,” Muckler said. “With it being Friends of Kids with Cancer’s 25th anniversary, we thought it was a great way to give them exposure.”

Muckler said the event has continued to grow every year, gaining more participants and nearly doubling the number of restaurants involved.

“I think this is the year we’re going to raise the most,” Muckler said.

Menus with exact prices from participating restaurants can be found online at www.WestCountyRestaurantWeek.net. Reservations at the participating restaurants are not required, but are encouraged due to high diner turnout.

Friends of Kids with Cancer was founded by Jill Turec, a developmental specialist, and Molly Henry and Susie Snowden, parents of children in the midst of cancer treatment.

“These three women had a dream that children with cancer would not miss out on any of their childhood,” said Judy Ciapciak, executive director of Friends of Kids with Cancer.

With the help of Dr. Bob Bergamini, a pediatric oncologist at Mercy St. Louis [then St. John’s Mercy], their dream became a reality.

“His outlook is not only treating the cancer, the disease, but treating the whole child, their emotional and recreational needs,” Ciapciak said. “The doctors take care of the medical needs and Friends of Kids with Cancer takes care of all the rest.”

Since its inception in 1992, the program has expanded its services to SSM Health Cardinal Glennon and St. Louis Children’s hospitals.

The charity – which prides itself on supporting not just the child, but the whole family unit – will be sending some of its parents on a date night to the restaurants involved in West County Restaurant Week.

Money raised from the event will go toward the pediatric cancer patients’ educational, emotional and recreational programs provided by Friends of Kids with Cancer.

Ciapciak said the organization is grateful to be a part of West County Restaurant Week; it enjoys supporting local businesses and it’s grateful to receive reciprocal support.

“The main goal of creating this program was to drive business into the local restaurants,” Muckler said. “Now, we’ve added this charity element … We’re really hoping to give a big check to Friends of Kids with Cancer to utilize this holiday season.”

West County Restaurant Week’s sponsors are West Newsmagazine, Kenwood Vineyards, Absolut Vodka, Red Bull, The Diamond Family, Now 96.3, Brentwood Material Company, ExteriorScape and Lauren Muckler Photography.

“We really want to thank West Newsmagazine for getting behind West County Restaurant Week since the first one seven years ago,” Muckler said.

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