The holiday season is here and we are quickly approaching the 2019 Sheepherders Ball. This year’s event will be held on Saturday, December 21. The Sheepherders Ball & Lamb Auction is the primary source of funding for the Basque charities account. This annual event is a great opportunity to help the Basque community support families in need. The majority of funds raised from the Sheepherders Ball is reserved for a primary beneficiary each year, while the remainder is shared amongst others in need.

This year’s primary recipient is Thomas Foster. In 2016, first-time parents Matt and Carlie Foster learned that their child had a congenital heart defect at the 20-week ultrasound. At 26 weeks the pediatric cardiologist confirmed their son had a defect known as double inlet left ventricle. They quickly learned all the medical terminology, that the heart has a left and right ventricle, and in their son’s case his right ventricle did not fully develop. This meant that his body was pumping too much oxygenated blood into his body.

Thomas Paul Foster was born on December 3, 2016, at St. Alphonsus in Boise where he stayed in the NICU for four days. He underwent his first open-heart surgery, a pulmonary artery banding, at just two weeks old, down at Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford in Palo Alto, California. Three days later, on Christmas Day, his colon started to die, and he was rushed into emergency surgery to remove it. The family was in the hospital for another six weeks, and left with some awesome scars, an ileostomy bag, and his second open-heart surgery already scheduled. On April 13, 2016, Thomas had his Glenn procedure, again in California, where they stayed for another two weeks. Then, before he turned six months old, on June 2, 2016, he had his fourth surgery at St. Luke’s in Boise, this time to reconnect his ileostomy.

Last month Thomas had his third open-heart surgery, and fifth overall, back at Stanford. This surgery, the Fontan, involved redirecting blood flow from the lower body to the lungs. Although the Fontan procedure does not result in normal blood circulation in the body, it does improve the circulation and allows the child to grow. Once again, Matt and Carlie’s days and nights were filled with the sounds of monitors, pumps, medicine, IVs, horrible hospital foods and the smell of antiseptic. The family once again was in Palo Alto for two weeks before being sent home for recovery. In addition to having to take off the two weeks to be at the hospital, Matt and Carlie had to take time off work to get Thomas through the important recovery period. All these procedures have been emotionally, physically and financially difficult on the Foster family. While the planned surgeries are now over, doctors do know that Thomas will require additional cardiac catheter procedures and a lifetime of medications and doctor visits, and that he is at a higher risk of heart-related complications and diseases as he ages.

With your help and support, we can make this year’s auction one of the best to help the Foster family through this difficult year. Please mark your calendar for December 21. Dinner will be at 6:30 PM, Oinkaris will perform at 8:00 PM and the Lamb Auction will immediately follow, around 9:00 PM. (Donations are greatly appreciated should you not be able to join us for the live auction.) The night will conclude with Amuma Says No performing from 10:00 PM until 1:00 AM. If you have any questions about the lamb auction fundraiser, please contact Martin Bilbao at (208) 989-6417 or by email at