Saturday, January 11, 2003

Public helps boy get treatment

Donations to pay for experimental method

By Tim Bonfield
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Thanks to an "overwhelming" community response, the family of Eric Page has raised nearly enough money for an experimental treatment for Crohn's disease.

[photo] Eric Page in his bedroom with some of his trophies for motocross.
(Gary Landers photo)
| ZOOM |
The Whitewater Township family has received more than $50,000 in donations in the past few weeks, thanks to a large stock gift from a family friend, a raffle at the Cavalcade of Customs show last weekend, and dozens of Tristate residents who responded to stories in the Enquirer and on local television news.

"I guess all I can say is thank you. The whole city of Cincinnati has been so overwhelming," said Eric's father, Tom Page.

Eric, 15, has been struggling for several years with an extreme case of Crohn's disease, an immune system disorder that attacks the digestive system.

After being rejected in November for insurance coverage, Eric's family turned to the public for help raising $75,000 to $100,000 for an experimental stem cell treatment at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago.

With money still coming in to a special account at Fifth Third Bank and fund-raising events scheduled for Jan. 18 and Feb. 15, the family feels confident of making its goal.

The biggest gift by far has been a stock donation from a family friend valued at about $40,000, Mr. Page said, which was arranged with help of WCPO-TV's Michael Flannery.

Meanwhile, a raffle over the weekend at the Cavalcade of Customs show raised more than $4,000. More than $6,000 has flowed into a benefit fund at Fifth Third Bank, which now exceeds $10,000, Mr. Page said.

Beyond the money, the family has been showered with well-wishes and bits of advice from long-lost friends, other families coping with Crohn's disease, complete strangers and a handful of organizations.

The stem cell treatment Eric hopes to receive would be an intense effort to reset his damaged immune system in a process similar to how children are treated for leukemia.

After harvesting stem cells from his blood, doctors would blast Eric's immune system with high-dose chemotherapy, then reintroduce the stem cells to grow a fresh immune system. The treatment will require spending two weeks in the hospital in a sterile environment to protect Eric from common infections that could be fatal while his immune system is down.

Eric is in Chicago for pre-treatment testing. The family expects to know within a week how soon he can begin the risky treatment.

Donations can be made at any Fifth Third Bank to the Eric Page Benefit Fund. A benefit dinner will be held at 5 p.m. Jan. 18 at Dayspring Church of God, 1060 Smiley Ave., Forest Park, and a charity auction is set for 6 p.m. Feb. 15 at St. John the Baptist School, 5375 Dry Ridge Road, Colerain Township.


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