About 30 people gathered at Lynfred Winery in Wheeling Sunday night to help raise money for Nathan Saavedra, a 3-year-old boy from Carpentersville who has prune-belly syndrome, an ailment that weakened his kidneys and required a transplant.
The fundraiser was organized by Kalin Koychev, 33, of Wheeling, who donated his left kidney last month to Nathan.
Nathan is recovering from the surgery and is almost back to being a normal toddler. "He used to just sit there. Now he's on the move all the time," said his mother, Tina Saavedra.
Koychev thanked attendees. "You can do anything with God," he said. "Just believe."
Koychev's wife, Sevda, donated 20 of her paintings to the event, while Michelle and Pamela Bridges -- Nathan's aunt and cousin -- sold blankets, hats and toys they knitted. Lynfred donated the space and wine for guests.
Koychev said the fundraiser was a huge success. "This is just the beginning," he said.
There is no estimate yet on how much money was raised.
Half of the proceeds from the fundraiser will help the Saavedra family pay Nathan's medical expenses while the other half will finance an initiative Koychev is calling "Godspeed."
"Godspeed" involves putting Scriptures and sayings on balloons and distributing them to patients in hospitals and in nursing homes. The goals are to cheer people up, build their faith in God and encourage the medical professionals tending to them. Koychev hails from Bulgaria and has repeatedly said God is responsible for selecting him to give a kidney to Nathan.
If you would like to help Koychev, send an email to email@example.com. If you would like to help the Saavedra family directly, you can make a donation to the Nathan Saavedra Kidney Fund at any BMO Harris Bank.
• Daily Herald staff writer Lenore T. Adkins contributed to this report.