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All You Can Eat

Trend-setting restaurants, Northwest cookbooks, local food news and the people who make them happen.

May 24, 2011 at 11:01 AM

World MS Day Seattle: Teach your children, lend a hand

William Khazaal has been a busy guy. Last time we spoke, he and his mother and sisters were preparing to reopen Phoenecia, bringing new life to their Alki restaurant following the death of the family patriarch, chef and restaurateur Hussein Khazaal. Since then, William’s been hard at work at the University of Washington, studying entrepreneurship and marketing at the Foster School of Business.

This week, the father of two is celebrating his 37th birthday, and with the help of scores of Seattle restaurants and other supporters, is raising funds in honor of World MS Day. Dine out at participating restaurants Wednesday, May 25, and a portion of your bill’s proceeds will support the publication and distribution of “The MS Children’s Book” — a kids’-eye view of what it’s like to live with Multiple Sclerosis. Additional funds will help organizations fighting the neurological disease: the National Pediatric MS Center, the National MS Society, and the CCSVI Alliance.

“When I was diagnosed in 2009, my eldest son, Gabriel, who was five at the time, was scared,” William recalls. “He’d see me at my worst, on days when I had no energy, and he’d ask questions like, `Are you going to die?'” MS, William says, strikes everyone differently, but for him the disease can sometimes feel like having a monster on your back. And that’s exactly the way it’s portrayed in his “Dr. Seuss-y” book, which is designed to provide greater understanding for children like Gabriel, whose lives are affected by MS.

Scenes from The MS Children’s Book: making “scary” not so scary. [courtesy The MS Children’s Book]

“The characters are young and old,” explains William, “and the monsters each look a little different, to help explain what might be happening to someone with MS: vision and mobility issues, dizziness, fatigue, the use of steroids.”

What began as a senior project, spearheaded by William and co-produced by a team of his business school classmates, has turned into a not-for-profit venture his generous, entrepreneurial father Hussein would have certainly been proud of.

“We’ve sold about 1000 books so far, and it just went to the printer yesterday,” William said late last week. “We hope to raise $150,000 to $200,000” from book sales (buy it here), and through donations from the May 25 event (more info here).

William Khazaal, whose family owns West Seattle’s Phoenecia restaurant, with his son Gabriel.

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