By Laura Lennie, News Staff
Fiona Thompson is looking to give back to a cause close to her heart with a little help from her friends.
The seven-year-old Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Elementary School Grade 2 student is making rainbow loom bracelets to raise funds for McMaster Children’s Hospital in honour of her four-year-old brother Anthony, who was diagnosed with epilepsy at the age of two.
More than 15 Grade 1 to 4 students are pitching in towards the effort of completing the purple bracelets in time for a school Valentine’s Day fundraiser.
“I really wanted to do something for the hospital because they helped my brother get better and I’m very grateful and happy that my friends are helping too,” Fiona said. “We’re all working really hard to finish the bracelets and we hope that lots of students buy them so we can give back and help other kids too.”
Anthony experienced his first seizure in May 2011, just after his second birthday.
Fiona and Anthony’s mother Melissa said the family didn’t know it was a seizure at the time.
“Noticing the same thing here and there, we became concerned,” she said. “That August, we took Anthony to the emergency at McMaster Children’s Hospital to see if they could figure out what it was that he was having. After only one week, he had an appointment for an EEG and exactly one week after that, he was diagnosed with epilepsy.”
Anthony was immediately put on medication, which in time proved ineffective.
He was having, on average, 20 seizures per day.
Melissa said the family visited the hospital on a monthly basis for EEGs, blood work and routine visits with Anthony’s pediatric neurologist.
“After switching medications numerous times and even trying a ketogenic diet, we thought that nothing would work, until (pediatric neurologist) Dr. Gabriel Ronen – our angel in disguise – suggested that we try Anthony on a high dose of steroids for one month. After only four days, Anthony was seizure-free,” she said. “He had not gone one day in 10 months without a seizure and just like that they disappeared. We were beyond amazed with the results.”
The funds generated by Fiona and her friends’ rainbow loom bracelets this month will be added to money raised through the family’s second annual An Evening of Awareness event next month. All proceeds will support the McMaster Children’s Hospital pediatric neurology program and epilepsy research.
The dinner, dance and silent auction fundraiser will take place on Friday, March 21 at the Grand Olympia Hospitality and Convention Centre at 660 Barton St. in Stoney Creek.
Melissa said the first event was organized in an effort to give back to the hospital and staff that did so much to help Anthony and the family through a difficult time.
“For a year, the hospital was a second home and the staff were like our second family; they were just incredible,” she said. “Last year, we sold more than 425 tickets and raised just over $15,000 (for research) – the response from the community was overwhelming.”
Melissa said support from the community has continued for the second event as well.
“This year, we’ve received so many donations for the silent auction,” she said. “The prizes are incredible. It’s going to be a really good night.”
Anthony has been seizure-free for 18 months.
Melissa said the family feels indebted to McMaster Children’s Hospital, its staff and Ronen.
“With everything they did for us we want to continue to give back. As a community, we are so blessed to have the hospital in our area,” she said. “Knowing that we can possibly help other families makes us that more passionate. No child should have to deal with any illness and no parent should have to see their child suffer.”
For more information on the rainbow loom bracelets or second annual An Evening of Awareness event, contact Melissa at 289-684-1440 or firstname.lastname@example.org.