Campers aid area toddler

Campers aid area toddler

The Jeffery family is giving thanks to their newfound friends, many of whom they’ve never met.

Indeed, most of the Jefferys’ supporters are members of the Bluewater Campers’ Association, which recently presented the St. Joseph’s family with a $7,200 donation, the second of such gifts since the club first heard of the family’s plight three years ago.

“I can’t tell you what this means for our family,” says Dennis Jeffery. “This will help a lot.”

And help is what the Jefferys need as their youngest son, three-year-old André, continues with his valiant battle with Severe Combined Immunodefiency Disease (SCID), an autoimmune disease that leaves him vulnerable to a host of life-threatening illnesses and renders most of his life to the confines of what is commonly known as a plastic bubble.

André was first diagnosed with the disease at the age of four months when the Jefferys brought him to see a Stratford doctor as the baby was covered in a rash that looked like he’d been splashed with scalding water.

André has been in and out of hospitals ever since.

Most recently, the sweet-cheeked young lad with soulful brown eyes, suffered cardiac arrest, his second one due to the havoc the 34 medications medications he takes daily are wreaking on his organs.

André is now at Sick Kids’ Hospital in Toronto where his mom, Sheila, keeps vigil as the rest of the family including seven-year-old sister, Monica, and nine-year-old brother, Donavon, hold down the fort in St. Joseph’s.

Naturally, notes Dennis, the emotional, financial and physical toll of André’s plight is difficult on everyone, especially André’s siblings who must spend a lot of time away from their beloved parents who, for a time, were at André’s bedside 24 hours a day.

“It’s hard to keep everybody together,” notes Dennis. “It’s been a difficult experience. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.

And when André and his mom are able to return home, the family will once again face the additional expenses of bringing Registered Nurses in to assist with his care. Plus, only 27 of the medications André requires are covered by OHIP.

At a recent meeting at the Bluewater Campers’ meeting room, club members presented the family with the $7,200 donation, as well as $50 gift certificates for Monica and

Donavon and a stuffed animal for André. It was clearly a proud night for members as one organizer put it: “For such a small number of people, this is an amazing amount of money.”

While learning André is currently grappling with kidney problems as he recovers from cardiac arrest, the Bluewater Campers vow to continue to help where they can – even though most of them were meeting Dennis, Monica and Donavon for the first time at the cheque presentation.

“It’s going to help me large,” says Dennis, who notes there are many changes on the horizon for the Jefferys including the possibility that they will have to sell their St. Joseph’s home, a community where both Dennis and Sheila hail from, and move to Toronto to ensure Andre continues to receive the treatment he needs.

Club member Deb Jeffrey, in thanking the campers, note the relatively small park – at 140 trailers – has raised nearly $20,000 in the past three years for the Jefferys and other community-based causes including $3,000 for Habitat for Humanity and $2,500 for the CT Scanner campaign at Alexandra Marine General Hospital in Goderich last year, and about $3,000 for the Jefferys two years ago.

The fundraising events, note organizers, were made possible through a slew of events, including silent auctions and golf tournaments with prizes donated by a vast number of area businesses and community groups. A special cake made each year proves to be a hot ticket item as well as it raised $350 during the first year, $550 the second and $1,400 this year.

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