Tarkington, Cleveland communities rally around restaurant owner stricken with cancer

Tara and Chris Stoneberger

After years of giving back to the communities of Cleveland and Tarkington, Ranch Hand Café owner Tara Stoneberger is on the receiving end.

Over the weekend, hundreds of people turned out to support Stoneberger as she readies for a battle with Stage IV uterine cancer that has metastasized into her remaining ovary and both lungs. Her supporters came to a barbecue benefit that netted just over $16,000, and three more fundraisers are being planned in the coming days.

“We want her to know that no one fights alone,” said Tammy Collins, who is organizing three of the fundraisers with the help of friends in the Tarkington Prairie community.

Collins said she felt compelled to help the Stoneberger family after Tara extended kindness to her family in their time of need.

Pct. 5 Constable David Hunter and several others helped serve food at Saturday’s fundraiser for Tara Stoneberger.

“My husband’s grandmother walked on water in my book. She was a saint to me and when she passed away with cancer 12 to 13 years ago, we were devastated. Tara organized a gathering for the Collins family after the funeral. I always had in my mind that one day I was going to pay her back for her kindness. That moment is now,” Collins said.

Along the way, she found support from Tarkington Prairie residents, including Cory Anderson who volunteered to cook all 35 of the donated beef briskets, along with pork sausage links, for Saturday’s benefit. Others stepped in to help serve the food in a drive-through pick-up line outside of Autozone in Cleveland.

On Monday, Collins and her husband delivered 110 pre-ordered barbecue plates to Tarkington ISD teachers that were organized last week as part of the barbecue fundraiser.

With that event wrapped up, Collins is now working on an online auction campaign to raise more money to help offset medical expenses for Stoneberger, who has 18 difficult weeks of chemotherapy ahead of her.

The online auction is being organized on Facebook at the following link: https://www.facebook.com/Tara-Stoneberger-Auction-113104180827857. The auction begins this Friday, March 5, and continues to the following Friday, March 12. Items will be posted on the Facebook page where bids will also be submitted.

Collins said some of the donated items include a Yeti cooler, load of crushed limestone, Kendra Scott necklace, two salon gift certificates, photo sessions and four gift certificates to Agave Mexican Restaurant, among many others. Auction items are still needed so if you have something you want to contribute, send Collins a message through the auction’s Facebook page.

Also in the works is a sign campaign that Collins hopes will flood the Prairie with messages of goodwill, friendship, love and support for Stoneberger.

“I want her to drive the Prairie and see all the love and support for her. I have told her that no one fights alone and I want her to feel that,” Collins said.

The signs are not yet available for sale but Collins said she is working with Good Promotions in Cleveland to have them made in the coming days. As soon as they are available, Bluebonnet News will provide a link to where they may be purchased.

Collins believes the show of support for Stoneberger is a testament to the high regard most people in the community feel for her and her family.

“I have never seen a community come together more than for Tara. When I am calling people to ask for help, their responses are all the same, ‘Anything for Tara.’ That’s all I hear,” she said.

Collins said she will not quit fundraising for Stoneberger until she reaches a goal of $40,000.

“She needs this. As much as she does for the community, I am not going to stop until we reach that number,” Collins said.

Stoneberger told Bluebonnet News on Tuesday that she is grateful to the community for the outpouring of support.

“Being on the receiving side of things is so humbling. We are so thankful, grateful and blessed by the way this community has shown up and shown off in our time of need. We pray blessings are returned 10 fold,” she said.

If you missed the barbecue fundraiser and want to donate money to the Stoneberger family, another family friend, Linda Burch of Cleveland, has set up a Go Fund Me account online at https://www.gofundme.com/f/time-to-return-the-favor-to-the-stonebergers

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Before creating Bluebonnet News in 2018, Vanesa Brashier was a community editor for the Houston Chronicle/Houston Community Newspapers. During part of her 12 years at the newspapers, she was assigned as the digital editor and managing editor for the Humble Observer, Kingwood Observer, East Montgomery County Observer and the Lake Houston Observer, and the editor of the Dayton News, Cleveland Advocate and Eastex Advocate. Over the years, she has earned more than two dozen writing awards, including Journalist of the Year.

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