Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Chili's co-workers arrange fundraisers to help the family of a 3-year-old cancer patient

TRINITY — It started out as a blood drive outside the Chili's on Little Road where they all work, but that went so well they wanted to keep going. So they stood outside the restaurant, in the median, asking for donations. "A guy who is a server at that Chili's, his 3-year-old daughter has cancer and they need money," they said.

Katie Schwener, a 21-year-old Chili's waiter and full-time college student, wanted it to hit home for people. Maybe they've eaten there before. Maybe they remember the waiter, the father, who gave them their food.

"People think, 'Oh that's a sad story.' But they see it as a story," said Schwener, whose father died from lung cancer when she was 10. "They don't think, 'This could be my child.'

"It's not comfortable for somebody to admit."

Schwener has only known Keith Olampo for a year, since the 38-year-old was laid off from his job as a construction supervisor and went back to waiting tables at Chili's, a job he did for 12 years before going into construction. Keith and his wife, Gina, have three children — Bekah, 6, Kyanna, 3, and Donovan, 2.

Gina works in billing at a health care company and, after Keith lost his job, she also worked part time at Home Depot. Keith's mother moved into their New Port Richey home.

Keith always enjoyed the tight-knit, family-atmosphere at Chili's and was happy to work with some of his former colleagues again — though he missed his construction job.

In late July, Kyanna ran a slight fever. So the Olampos took her to a doctor, who didn't like Kyanna's coloring and ran some tests. He ran them again, to make sure. Then he sent the family to the emergency room at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg.

There, Kyanna was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a cancer of the white blood cells. She began chemotherapy immediately and, since that date, has spent more time in the hospital than out of it. The cancer should be curable, but her treatments will continue for 2 1/2 years.

Keith's co-workers felt helpless and wanted to do something. The Olampos have health insurance, but Keith said it's not covering many things, such as her outpatient care.

So Schwener and Melinda Dunn, 29, started organizing events. After raising $300 from passing cars, the two decided to keep going.

On Monday night, they're hosting a benefit at Jungle Bounce, a place in Holiday full of inflatable bouncy houses for kids to play in. All admissions are going to the Olampo family.

Kyanna is adamant about going, Keith said. On Thursday, she had been in the hospital because of a fever for 11 days. They hoped she could go home this weekend.

"She's so excited," Keith said.

Her hair has started falling out. But she hasn't complained. She just reminded her mother that — when she's bald — to put sunscreen on her head, so she doesn't get sunburned. She has to wear a mask in public, to ward off infections. And sometimes her doctors and visitors also have to wear masks around her. So Kyanna's favorite stuffed pink monkey that hangs on her IV cart also wears a mask.

Kyanna's bones ache and she's sometimes a bit wobbly. She said she doesn't want to wear a wig, just pretty scarves.

"My dad never complained — but I always thought it was because he was a man and he was strong," Schwener said of her father's passing. "But Kyanna is just 3 years old and she's taking it so well."

Schwener said more events are in the works.

Both Keith and Gina are still trying to work, but they are usually either at the hospital, on the road between New Port Richey and St. Petersburg or trying to maintain some kind of normalcy for their other two kids.

It has been rough, Keith said. But he's thankful for his co-workers and everyone who has helped his family — from donations and prayers to things like two of his co-workers taking his 6-year-old daughter back-to-school shopping, because Keith and Gina were with Kyanna.

"I'm so grateful," he said, from Kyanna's hospital room.

Erin Sullivan can be reached at or (727) 869-6229.

Fast facts

Helping Kyanna

•Kyanna's Web site is and the e-mail is Donations can be made on the website through PayPal.

•From 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday there will be a fundraiser for Kyanna at Jungle Bounce, an 11,000-square-foot party center full of huge inflatable structures and slides for children to play on. Admittance is $10 per child, with all of the proceeds going toward Kyanna and her family. Jungle Bounce is at 1014 U.S. 19 in Holiday. The website is and the phone number is (727) 938-7600.

• Angels Touch Photography is offering a free in-studio session and a free 8x10 print to anyone who donates $25 to the Olampo family through the studio, which is in New Port Richey. The website is

Chili's co-workers arrange fundraisers to help the family of a 3-year-old cancer patient 09/11/10 [Last modified: Saturday, September 11, 2010 12:04pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Blake Snell shines as Rays beat Mariners to end skid (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Blake Snell delivered the best outing of his young career and the Rays offense continued its home run-hitting ways for a 3-0 victory Sunday against the Mariners in front of 13,354 at Tropicana Field.

  2. No touchdown, but fun lesson for Bucs' Adam Humphries


    It didn't end up being a touchdown, but one of the Bucs' biggest hustle plays in Thursday's win over Jacksonville saw receiver Adam Humphries scoop up a loose ball just before halftime, after what looked like an incompletion but was correctly ruled a Jameis Winston fumble.

    Bucs WR Adam Humphries runs to the end zone with QB Jameis Winston trailing -- his alert play wasn't a touchdown because teammates cannot advance a fumble in the final two minutes of a half.
  3. Bucs' Demar Dotson should be back from injury next week


    The Bucs got good news on starting right tackle Demar Dotson, whose MRI showed only a mild right groin sprain and should be back at practice next week.

    Bucs tackle Demar Dotson, shown last year when he signed a three-year contract extension, should only miss a week of practice with his groin injury and can return healthy for the Bucs' season opener at Miami in three weeks. [Octavio Jones | Times]
  4. Comedy legend Jerry Lewis dead at 91


    LOS ANGELES — Jerry Lewis, the manic, rubber-faced showman who jumped and hollered to fame in a lucrative partnership with Dean Martin, settled down to become a self-conscious screen auteur and found an even greater following as the tireless, teary host of the annual muscular dystrophy telethons, has died. He was …

    In this Sept. 2, 1990, file photo, entertainer Jerry Lewis makes his opening remarks at the 25th Anniversary of the Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon fundraiser in Los Angeles. Lewis, the comedian whose fundraising telethons became as famous as his hit movies, has died according to his publicist. [Associated Press]
  5. Mastermind of lottery rigging scam that netted millions faces 25 years


    DES MOINES, Iowa — For a decade, computer programmer Eddie Tipton reliably showed up for work at the central Iowa office of the Multi-State Lottery Association and earned the confidence of his co-workers, a team of technicians entrusted to build computers used to randomly pick numbers for some of the most popular …

    FILE - In this June 29, 2017, file photo, Eddie Tipton, the former Multi-State Lottery Association information security director who admitted to masterminding a scheme to rig lottery games that paid him and others $2 million from seven fixed jackpots in five states, is seen in court in Des Moines, Iowa. Tipton is scheduled to be sentenced Tuesday, Aug. 22. (Rodney White/The Des Moines Register via AP, File) IADES501