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Hope can save

By Katie Scarvey
Salisbury Post
East Rowan High School senior Jordan Baker probably felt a little helpless when he realized that his sister Alyssa, 15, was in the grip of an eating disorder.
Like the rest of his family, he knew she sometimes skipped meals.
“We thought she was a picky eater,” says Susan Baker, Alyssa’s mother.
At some point, they grew more concerned, and Susan made an appointment for Alyssa to get a physical.
From there, things happened quickly.
“She needed more help than what we could offer,” Susan says.
Within a few days Alyssa, who is home-schooled, was on her way to the Renfrew Center in Florida, a treatment center for eating disorders. She stayed for more than a month last fall.
Jordan and his family traveled to Florida to visit Alyssa and be involved in her treatment.
“We got to see the whole process of what they do,” Jordan says. “Treatment’s really hard on them.”
Alyssa agrees.
“It’s hard to be away from family and have so much changing all at once,” she says.
She had to overcome her fear of sharing her feelings ó and get over feeling like she was “the inconvenience.”
She learned that her eating disorder was a way to avoid things and gain control. “Being in control of something put me in control of everything,” she says.
After 40 days of treatment, the family’s insurance would no longer cover inpatient care for Alyssa.
The day they found out, Susan and Heath Baker left with their 8-month-old son Emery, driving all night to pick up Alyssa.
Alyssa felt she had gained some important tools for managing her life, but she was still nervous about putting what she had learned into practice in an unstructured environment.
Her parents decided to continue Alyssa’s treatment in an outpatient day treatment center in Charlotte, paying the entire cost ó $900 a day ó out of pocket. They hope to be reimbursed for at least some of that by their insurance company.
Alyssa is currently receiving outpatient treatment at a facility in Mooresville.
When Alyssa got back from Florida, she was feeling sort of alone, Jordan says. Becoming aware of all the people who were praying for her helped her feel supported, he says.
While Jordan certainly supported his sister emotionally, he wanted to do more. He wanted to help not only his sister but other girls who might be in the same situation.
He realized that when it comes to eating disorders, treatment too often ends, for financial reasons, before a patient is really well.
He learned from Alyssa that some of the other girls at the Renfrew Center in Florida had been forced to leave, even though they did not feel they’d be able to successfully re-enter their regular lives without backsliding.
Instead of just feeling frustrated, he decided to do something to help ó and so he’s organized a benefit concert to help raise money to go to girls who need continued treatment but might not otherwise be able to get it.
The “Hope Can Save” concert is set for this Sunday, March 30, at the Greene Street Club, 113 N. Greene St. in Greensboro. Doors open at 4 p.m. Admission is $10.
That the fundraiser is a musical event seems appropriate.
Both Jordan and Alyssa love music and often travel to Greensboro with their father to hear their favorite bands.
After Alyssa started treatment, Jordan started a MySpace page for her. Her favorite bands left her messages there.
“There was a lot of support from that,” Jordan says.
Alyssa got a guitar for her birthday two years ago. She likes to write songs, and for a while, she played keyboards in a band called Planet Terror with Jordan, who played drums. The band also included Spencer Brisson, Ryan Jordan and John Hannah.
Planet Terror won the “Live at the Hive” competition last year, Jordan says.
At the “Hope Can Save Concert,” eight local and regional bands will play, and in between the bands, Jordan will present his message, about the organization he started: “Hope Can Save.”
The bands include The Winter Mission, En Serenade, Friday Never Counts, Yearling, Love and Reverie, Grace Has Favor, The Decade and Sparks in Stereo.
Jordan has also designed a T-shirt with uplifting messages on it, like “You are beautiful.” The words are written so that they can only be read in a mirror.
The T-shirts will be sold as part of the fundraising effort.
Jordan is hoping to eventually establish “Hope Can Save” as a non-profit.
When he’s raised some money, eating disorder patients will be able to apply through their local therapists for funds to allow them to continue treatment ó and ultimately get better, Jordan hopes.
Alyssa continues to recover and is doing well these days. Her family has set up an art room for her upstairs so that she can express herself creatively, which has been therapeutic for her because it gives her a way to show her emotions, Susan says.
Alyssa also learned to knit while she was in Florida and made more than 20 scarves while she was there. A bag stuffed full of yarn and needles also sits at the ready in the art room.
The whole experience, Susan says, has “really brought us closer as a family.”
Contact Katie Scarvey at 704-797-4270 or kscarvey@salisburypost.com.

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