Bloomfield residents raise funds for baby with high blood pressure

Photo by Daniel Jackovino
Bloomfield hair salon owner Donna Vaicels raised funds totaling $2,450 for 18-month-old Sawyer Jane Barrow seen here with her mother, Natalie.

BLOOMFIELD, NJ — A Brookdale hair salon owner and a local cucumber harvester are part of an effort to raise funds for an 18-month-old girl born with a rare blood vessel abnormality of the brain called vein of Galen malformation, or VOGM.

The little girl is Sawyer Jane Barrow, daughter of Natalie and Keith Barrow of Towaco. The problem with VOGM, according to the Boston Children’s Hospital website, is that arteries in the brain connect directly with veins instead of with capillaries. This causes high blood pressure and can lead to brain injury or death. The child’s father is a 2012 Bloomfield High School graduate.

On Friday, Jan. 3, Donna Vaicels, the owner of Salon Gossip on Broad Street, presented Natalie Barrow with a check for $2,450. Vaicels raised the money by selling chances for a candy count, performing her stand-up comedy routine and selling pickle ornaments and other products.
“We went with the pickle theme,” she said, handing out pickle-flavored candy.

Vaicels adopted the unusual theme after coming across a fundraising effort by cucumber harvester Justin Dolan, a 2009 BHS graduate who knows the Barrows.

“My wife played volleyball with Keith and we have kids of similar age,” he said in a telephone interview earlier this week.
Every summer Dolan and his wife plant a small vegetable garden.

“This year we grew cucumbers and made pickles,” he said. “I live in Belleville. Nobody has a lot of property.”
Dolan knew about Sawyer’s condition and asked the Barrows if he could help.

He put a fundraiser on social media — $5 for a pickle to help Sawyer — and began getting responses from across the country. He packaged the pickles and shipped them out.

“It’s kind of stressful shipping out pickles,” he said.
But from his 10-by-6-foot garden, he made $1,500 in pickle sales.

ABC News soon picked up the story, and Dolan started a GoFundMe page.
Sawyer was also a 2019 beneficiary of the Charles Seller Foundation, which stages Talent Time musicals in Bloomfield every summer and donates the proceeds to someone in the area with high medical bills.

Natalie said Sawyer has had four surgeries, with another scheduled for April 4 at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. Sawyer’s medical bills, apart from those covered by insurance, are now at $90,000.

The GoFundMe link to benefit Sawyer: