Makanda Williams is one step closer to what her family and hundreds of supporters hope is her miracle.
After more than a week-long snafu with the United States Postal Service concerning the delivery of Makanda's passport, the 10-year-old Ewing girl is finally in Monterrey, Mexico, where she received her first treatment for diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma yesterday.
DIPG is a very aggressive and rare childhood brain cancer with a survival rate of about 1 percent. Currently, there is no cure, but researchers at Los Angeles Hospital in Monterrey have developed a treatment that may well buy quality-of-life time for Makanda and others like her.
Makanda's mother, Sarah Carlton, has charted her daughter's illness on Facebook, where hundreds of other users have offered encouragement, empathy and even financial support.
"Tonight EXACTLY 7 Months later at approximately 8pm, we met a wonderful doctor in Monterrey, Mexico that has provided us with compassion and ultimately a glimmer of hope," she wrote on Tuesday. "I am a rollercoaster of emotions right now because as wonderful as this is to us, it is all so terrifying."
Supporters, many of who don't even know Makanda personally, have banded together to help the 10-year-old from the small town of Ewing fight for her life.
Kevin Edwards, owner of Edwards Antiques on the Benton Public Square, is one of those people. He has organized a fundraising event for Friday evening, hoping to raise "as much as we can" to help the family pay for the treatments that could total as much as $250,000.
"Holiday on the Square: Miracle for Makanda" will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday evening on the Benton Public Square.
Edwards said plans for the evening include a raffle of several items from the family of the late Hon. Robert H. Hill, photos with Mrs. Claus donated by Sheila Clendenin of Shooting Star Photography, a silent auction, appearances by the Benton High School Madrigal Singers, and "Chocolate 4 Change," a hot chocolate booth being manned by Franklin County Circuit Clerk Jim Muir and State Sen. Dale Fowler (R-Harrisburg).
Fowler said he is happy to be on board helping the family.
"Makanda and her family are facing a challenging road ahead, but this is not a fight they have to face alone. This benefit is about coming together as a community, showing our support and working to help this family achieve their miracle," he said. "I'll be there serving hot chocolate and encourage everyone to join us on December 15 to help give one family in our community hope for a brighter future this holiday season."
Muir took to Facebook last week, pledging a continued monthly donation to the family and encouraging others to follow his lead.
Edwards said he is touched by how others have stepped up to make the event a success.
"Katy (Karcher) from Seasonings Bistro next door came over and brought a gift card for the silent auction," said Edwards, referring to her as a "mover and shaker who gets things done." He said Karcher also left with "a stack of raffle tickets to sell."
Johnston City High School senior Victoria Mueller found out about the fundraiser and offered her services as well as recruiting members of her school's student council to help. "Count me in," said the student-athlete, who is still facing a number of surgeries to restore the use of her arm she nearly lost in an October automobile accident.
Mueller knows first-hand the importance of community support. Her own plight has garnered support from schools and individuals across southern Illinois and even nation-wide.
Carlos Hernandez Pacheco of La Fiesta in West Frankfort said he and his family are behind Makanda and are planning a big fundraiser to support her and two other area children in need. "My heart goes to the family," he said. "They are such strong people. There are lots and lots of people behind them, and we're standing in line to help."
Carlton said she is thankful "beyond measure" for the support. "Thank you all for loving my girl enough to help get her here, exactly where she needs to be," she said. "Tomorrow starts a whole new journey in our lives."