Rancho Santa Fe's Casa Blanca Salon hosted a fundraising event on Sept. 24 to benefit the Magic Water Project; an organization founded by a group of parents whose children are facing pediatric cancers. A founding family of Magic Water from Carmel Valley, Melissa and Andy Mikulak, just lost their 7-year-old son Max on Aug. 31 after a four-year battle with cancer.
"He was just a sweet, compassionate boy and still very much a boy," said Melissa Mikulak. "We miss him terribly. We're still trying to comprehend that there's a child missing from our household and family."
Mikulak said she was touched that Casa Blanca owner Marcina Checketts selected their organization for her fundraiser.
"We live in such a wonderful community and when so many people come out to support each other, it's really heartwarming," said Mikulak.
Checketts, also a Carmel Valley resident, often holds charity events at her shop in Del Rayo Village and was more than happy to do something to support her friends.
"They are absolutely amazing people," said Checketts. "They're just an inspiration for everyone."
Magic Water was started less than two years ago by the Mikulaks and the Hutchisons, a Pacific Beach family whose son Sam is also fighting cancer. The name borrows from one parent's attempt to explain chemotherapy to their 18-month-old who was receiving it. They called it magic water that would make the pain go away.
Of course, the Mikulaks know that it is not that easy to cure any cancer, specifically the pediatric cancers of nueroblastoma and medullablastoma that Magic Water supports.
"There's no cure for it and finding a cure for it is so far off," said Mikulak. "We're trying to fund research to find less toxic treatments to give our kids more time."
All the money raised by Magic Water goes directly toward that research and clinical trials.
Mikulak noted that the space left behind by Max's absence is not easily filled.
Hannah used to share a bedroom with her brother - after he spent so much time away in the hospital she wanted to be as close as she could be to him. In the last few weeks, her parents have been sleeping in the room with her, as she has been lonely.
The second graders in Mikulak's classroom at Solana Highlands miss him so much they've taken to putting a stuffed animal in his seat because they hate to see his desk empty. They even make sure the right book is on his desk and that it's turned to the right page.
For so many people to care about Max and want to help others in his situation has comforted his mother.
"It definitely helps having people support what we believe in," Mikulak said.
At last week's sunny event at Casa Blanca, children enjoyed playing with a table full of legos (one of Max's favorites) or checking out the San Diego Police Department SWAT team's new bearcat armored rescue vehicle. Girls could also create their own "sugar scrub sundae" body wash or get a fairy sparkle manicure.
For adults, there was a mojito bar and demonstrations and consultations by plastic surgery team Dr. Wendell Smoot, Dr. John Smoot and Dr. Richard Chaffoo, who partnered with Casa Blanca on the event. A portion of the proceeds from any procedure scheduled that night will go toward Magic Water.
Checketts' daughter Kendra, a fourth grader at Solana Highlands Elementary, was also part of the charity event, selling lemonade at her Famous Lemonade Stand. She has long been involved with her mom's charity efforts, starting at age five when she collected teddy bears for children in need.
"I like to help kids a lot," said Kendra Checketts. "It really just makes me happy, it's really fun to do stuff for people."
In recent years, she's hosted her lemonade stand at numerous events, raising nearly $50,000 for organizations like Casa de Amparo, Rady's Children's Hospital and PC Pals.
She said the Magic Water event was for a cause close to heart as she is a friend of Max's sister Hannah and his father Andy was her softball coach.
"This one is very important," Kendra said. "Max was one of my heroes, a really great kid who was very brave."
To donate or find out more about Magic Water, go to