April 10, 2005

A very good day indeed

Here are a couple of very touching stories of the generosity of Quad Citians and people in general. These stories remind us that even amid the steady torrent of news involving crooks and chisellers running the country, this represents what is truly great about our country and people, lest we forget.

The first involves an outpouring of help for the medical needs of a small girl.
Ellis Kell, a longtime employee of the Dispatch who now works for the River Music Experience and also a prominent local musician who is associated with many good works in the area, and who lost his own lovely daughter in a tragic car accident some years ago, played a role in this, as did other generous businesses and individuals.

Tuesday, I told you about Leny, a 3-year-old girl who was losing her vision to infantile glaucoma. Her family needed $10,000 to pay for an urgent operation that would at least halt her vision loss. I was concerned when I was writing the story, because her parents are undocumented immigrants, and I thought that might matter.

I apologize for thinking that. It didn't at all.

The phone calls and the e-mails started Tuesday. Quad-Citians from all walks of life wanted to help. Local blues musician Ellis Kell said he wanted to do something, but wasn't sure what he could pull off in light of the unknown deadline Leny's illness presented.

"We got to help that little girl," he said on the phone and promised to work on it.

In the meantime, the calls kept coming. By Thursday morning, Lisa Viaene was giddy and tired. She is the Davenport woman who found Leny's illness in a health screening and felt compelled to raise the money to save her vision. She called to say the goal has been met and exceeded.

"I can't believe it," she said. "As soon as the story appeared we started getting money."

Mrs. Viaene already had $3,000 from the Greater Rock Island Noon and Evening Lion's Clubs before the story ran, and has spent a huge portion of the last couple of days talking to people and opening envelopes. She's been touched by the area's generosity.

Now, Leny will have surgery before the end of April.

"Overwhelmed is an underestimate," Mrs. Viaene said. " It's been an experience that's hard to explain. I would have never anticipated within two days this goal would have been met. I was hoping, but never ever thought it would happen as fast as it did."

Mrs. Viaene said she has had some very touching phone calls, including one from a 12-year-old girl whose little sister had surgery a week before and wanted to donate $100 of her own money. A dad with three kids called to say they didn't have much, but his children wanted to give their allowance. Other people called saying they couldn't afford to donate, but offered their thoughts and prayers. One special woman called after the goal was met but still wanted to help, so she paid for Leny's outstanding medical bills.

"It's been a very gratifying, very busy couple days," Mrs. Viaene said. "I have so many people to thank. The people at the (Bethel Wesley Methodist) Church, (Moline), Eye Surgeon Associates for getting the ball rolling, there's so many people. I don't even know where to start."

Mrs. Viaene said she wants to thank everyone who donated, and promised to give another update following the surgery. Mrs. Viaene is still counting, but said any money above the goal would be used for what ever care Leny needs beyond the surgery.

Mr. Kell would call me back later.

"We don't have any money, but we can play music," he said. "So I called Dr. Amir Arbisser to see what we could do. We're going to play at his daughter's birthday party and he's going to donate $1,000 towards the girl's surgery. Then my bass player (John Burchett) said his boss from Walman Optical (Milan) walked in the office with the clipping, and John told him what we were doing, and now (Walman Optical),is going to donate $3,000 towards the surgery. It's a very good day."

And another story tells of efforts by other volunteers and businesses who helped remove years of debris and clean up an elderly couple's home so that it could be fit for them to care for their 4 year old great-grandson who was placed in their care.
In many ways, Daniel Griffin is like other 4-year-old boys.

His innocent smile and dimples can melt hearts. He knows no strangers and readily offers a visitor a sip of his Capri Sun.

He's full of energy and runs circles around the family pets -- two dogs, two birds and half a dozen cats that come and go. He likes to pretend he's Spiderman and climb atop furniture to spring off.

His favorite television shows are "Barney" and "Dora the Explorer." Bugs fascinate him.

But cockroaches and fleas weren't the sort of bugs Daniel should encounter at home, caseworkers told his caregivers in December. They threatened to remove the boy and place him in another foster home shortly before Christmas.

City health inspector Kimberly Bradley, with support from Mayor Joe Moreno, organized a cleanup Saturday so inspectors could get inside and assess the house's structural condition.


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