Sunday, February 18, 2001

Teen arranges benefit concert for tiny patient

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer Contributor

        FAIRFIELD — Five-month-old Vinessa Cac wears elbow braces and sometimes patches to keep her from scratching her eyes.

        The smiling, cooing, otherwise active 16-pound infant has to be kept in a reclined position for another two to three weeks, allowed to lie down for just brief periods while her diaper is changed.

        Born blind because of detached retinas, Vinessa and her mom, Victoria, left their Philippine home for a vitrectomy operation — not available in their homeland — that was developed 18 years ago by Dr. Michael Trese and is expected to give her sight. They arrived at the Fairfield home of Vinessa's aunt, Zeny Meek, in mid-January and traveled to Detroit's William Beaumont Hospital for the Jan. 27 operation on one eye. A week later the operation was performed on her other eye.

        Mrs. Meek has taken out loans and may refinance her home to help her brother pay for the two operations, plane fare and other expenses. The child's parents, who don't have insurance, and other family members in the Philippines pooled their life savings and raised the equivalent of $8,000 in a land where the average worker earns about 200 pesos — less than $4 — a day. Letters sent to friends and others raised another $6,000, Mrs. Meek said.

        “I was almost crazy thinking she'll be blind the rest of her life,” Mrs. Meek said of her niece, who was born four weeks premature. “She'll need glasses now for the rest of her life and probably will need laser surgery later.”

        When Anna Wiehe, 17, heard about the situation, she decided to help. In a three-week period the Fairfield Senior High School junior put together a benefit concert to raise funds for Vinessa. She contacted five Greater Cincinnati bands that agreed to perform.

        When she took her story to Fairfield's VFW Post 1069, they allowed her to use their Hicks Boulevard hall rent-free for the concert, scheduled for 8 p.m. today at the hall, 1367 Hicks Blvd.

        “I hope we can fill the hall,” said Anna, who also contacted several restaurants and businesses that agreed to donate gift certificates for raffle prizes.

        Mrs. Meek said she is touched by Anna's efforts.

        “I cannot believe her,” Mrs. Meek said. “I just love this kid!”


               • Bands: Drop Shadow, 4 OHMS, Close to Home, Fallout and Unibrow With A Vengeance will perform.

        • Tickets: $5 at the door.

        • Donations: Send them to the Vinessa Cac Fund, Keybank, 5000 Dixie Hwy., Fairfield, Ohio 45014.


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