It?s been a struggle for the Petaluma girl and her family in many ways, but the good news is that Isabel has been off treatment for the past six months and was given a clean bill of health by her doctor.

?We go in every month to see if she?s still OK,? said Isabel?s mom, Paulette. ?They follow you closely for the first two years after treatment, because the highest chance for relapse occurs during those first two years. We don?t expect a relapse, though. She?s doing great. She?s doing good in school and her hair has grown back. You would not be able to tell that she went through chemo.?

The last few years have been long and difficult for the Carles family, and Paulette says they are most grateful for the support they?ve received from the Carousel Fund, a Petaluma-based non-profit that provides help to families with children suffering from catastrophic illness.

?In the very beginning when Isabel was diagnosed, we were totally devastated,? said Paulette. ?It was traumatic. A neighbor of ours told us to look into the Carousel Fund. She called Carousel Fund founder Arnie Cohen and he met with us; took us under his wing. He brought a stuffed animal for Isabel and a check for $5,000 and said, ?You don?t have to worry about rent or paying bills while this is happening.? They?ve helped us through these past three years and I don?t know how we would?ve made it without them. I can?t put into words just how much they?ve helped us.?

The Carousel Fund provides much-needed support to several Petaluma families, many of whom quickly discover that even with health insurance, medical bills can quickly add up and devastate household finances.

?It was interesting to note that the insurance was more difficult to deal with than the treatments,? said Paulette. ?It was more stressful dealing with our insurance than with chemotherapy. We thought we had good insurance, but then the deductible changed, and it was so high. It was just one big headache. Carousel Fund was there for us every step of the way. At one point, Isabel needed to have surgery, and the Carousel Fund was there to help us pay the rent. I shudder to think what we would?ve done without them.?

In an effort to continue providing support to families in situations such as the Carleses, the Carousel Fund hosts its 22nd annual Casino Night fund-raiser beginning at 6 p.m. Oct. 3 at the Petaluma Veterans Memorial Building.

This year?s event features guest performer Frankie Avalon, casino games, and live and silent auctions. There will also be a wine tasting and buffet dinner provided by Rose Catering. The Randy Vincent Quartet will play music early in the evening and baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Rollie Fingers and pitcher Vida Blue will be on hand to mingle and play Texas Hold ?em with guests.

The event annually raises in excess of $150,000, which goes to Petaluma families of children with catastrophic illnesses.

Tickets are $70. To order tickets by mail, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope and check to The Carousel Fund, 503 Hayes St., Petaluma 94952. For more information, phone 762-9136 or visit www.carouselfund.org.

(Contact Yovanna Bieberich at Yovanna.bieberich@arguscourier. com)