13-year-olds donate money to cystic fibrosis

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 24, 2011

By Cynthia Hooper
For the Salisbury Post
The screams of a roomful of boys and girls made it sound like an ordinary birthday party, but this one was different, this one had a goal in mind. Friends Brittany McGee and Margaret Young, who turned 13 in November and December had been planning their joint birthday party since the fall. With the holidays so busy, they hadn’t been sure where or when to have it, but they knew what the end result would be.
Friday night was the party, the 7th graders, from Erwin Middle school, decided that they would forgo any presents for themselves, instead asking friends to donate the gift money to cystic fibrosis (CF) research.
When the Faith Legion heard about the party and the planned donation, they graciously offered the use of their facilities so the 50 guests would have plenty of space to celebrate.
Everyone seemed to be having a wonderful time at the party, even though it was a school night. By the big smile on eight-year-old Gracie Hodge’s face, you would have thought the party was for her. In a way it was, the money raised will be donated in her honor to cystic fibrosis research, and hopefully someday will help find a cure for the disease she was diagnosed with when she was a few months shy of her fourth birthday.
When Laura Hodge heard what the girls wanted to do she was ecstatic, “I was shocked, it’s somebody’s birthday and they are taking donations to help others, I am blown away,” she said.
Gracie’s dad, Robert and Margaret’s dad, Graham, have worked together at Freightliner for over 20 years. Margaret remembered going to spend time with the Hodge family when she was younger, that was when she met Gracie and learned about CF.
The donation idea was hatched earlier this year when one of Brittney’s and Margaret’s teachers, Mr. Klinger, told them they were going to do a project this year that would make a difference in the world.
“I always wanted to do something to help CF, but couldn’t think of anything to do. Since our birthdays are so close, we decided to have a party-and instead of presents, we asked for donations,” Margaret said.
Right before they cut the cake, Graham Young gathered all the kids around and introduced them to Gracie, holding her up on his shoulder. As he spoke about CF and the struggles the family has gone through, one by one, guests began to find tears rolling down their cheeks, when Young saw them tearing up, his tears started as well.
The tears were quickly replaced with screams of joy when Gracie announced that they had raised a whooping $655 so far, that does not include any pledges that were made.
Wendy Miller, Brittany’s mother, was very impressed with the idea. “I am so proud of the girls and their dedication to the cause. I think it’s great when young people have compassion and concern for others.”
Gracie thought it was great too and had a wonderful time dancing with all the older kids and her little sister, Claire. Thankfully, Claire does not have CF.
When asked what she most wanted people to know about CF, she said, “They don’t have to be afraid, they can’t catch it.”
The Hodge family, who owns Hodge Farm in Mt Ulla, were devastated when they found out Gracie was sick. “Because you know she is never going to get over it,” her mother said. Gracie takes over 15 medications daily, including her “old lady drugs,” as she calls them. The cost of treatment is unfathomable, with one chest therapy machine costing over $15,000 and one of her medications alone costing $5,000 a month.
In December, Gracie was fitted with a feeding tube to help her gain weight and get the nutrition she needs. She has taken to reading the nutrition labels on food, since she needs to eat a diet high in fats, calories and salt. The family also has to worry about her getting osteoporosis, which is not a common concern for a third grader.
This is not the first time people have stepped up to the plate to make things a little better for the Hodge family. In June, they went to the Animal Kingdom in Orlando as a Make-a-Wish Foundation trip. They also host an annual golf tournament which last year raised $10,500 for CF research, that was matched 100% by donors.
By the end of the party, Avery Wright and Carlie Darnell were exchanging phone numbers with Laura Hodge. Their birthdays are this summer and they want to raise money to help CF as well. Her eyes red from crying, Carlie was asked if she would miss the gifts, “Save a life…that is a present.”
According to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s website, cystic fibrosis is an inherited disease that affects the lungs and digestive system of about 30,000 children and adults in the United States. CF is caused by a defective gene and its protein product which cause the body to produce unusually thick, sticky mucus that clogs the lungs and can cause life-threatening lung infections. The mucus can also obstruct the pancreas and stops natural enzymes from helping the body break down and absorb food.
Recent advances in research and medical treatments have enhanced and extended life for children and adults with CF. Many people with the disease can now expect to live into their 30s, 40s and beyond. There is still no cure and much more to learn about the chronic disease.
“That is astounding to me to hear about young children supporting each other — being that selfless, it is just amazing,” said Sabrina Watt, Executive Director for the Charlotte Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
To make a donation in Gracie’s name, please go to https://www.cff.org/GetInvolved/ManyWaysToGive/Donate/