During a holiday season associated with miracles, two Franklin County parents are hoping for one that will save the life of their child.
Ten-year-old Makanda Williams was diagnosed last May with diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, a very aggressive and rare childhood brain cancer that strikes children between the ages of 3 and 10.
There is no cure. The survival rate for children with this particular type of tumor is about 1 percent.
In six months, Makanda has undergone radiation treatments, the standard response to the tumor. Even with those treatments, the survival expectation is about nine months.
"Parents like myself are literally told to take our children home and make memories because there is no cure," said Makanda's mom, Sarah Carlton.
Carlton said she could not accept that, so instead of making memories, she decided to pursue a miracle.
"There is a treatment being offered in Monterrey, Mexico, that is showing a great deal of hope without jeopardizing the quality of life," she said.
Because the treatment is outside the United States, insurance will not cover its costs. "That's nothing new," Carlton said. "Insurance does not cover any treatments because the few available are considered experimental."
Carlton is undaunted. "How can you put a price on the life of your child?" she asked.
When Kevin Edwards, who owns Edwards Antiques on the Benton Square, heard about the family's plight, he immediately wanted to help. "I had several items from the family of the late Hon. Robert H. Hill they wanted to sell," he said. Edwards approached the family, who immediately donated the antiques for a raffle.
Edwards will host a "Holiday on the Square" on Dec. 15. "We will have several things going on in the store with the proceeds going to help Makanda," he said.
Edwards and his building, which sports 21,000 lights and decorations, will host photos with Mrs. Claus. "A couple of fine folks from Johnston City have volunteered to help out," he said. Opal Avery will play Mrs. Claus while Sheila Clendenin, owner of Shooting Star Photography, will set up from 6 to 8 p.m. to take photos with Mrs. Claus for $5 each.
"I'm so happy to do this for Makanda," Avery said. Clendenin echoed her sentiment. "It's an honor to lend my talent to help a child," she said.
Edwards has put together five items from the Hill estate including a 60-year-old sled, two quilts crafted by local churches about 50 years ago, a sterling silver serving bowl about 40 years old, and an advertising jug he estimates at 125 to 150 years old. The total value of the items is around $1,000.
Edwards said the tickets will be $2 each or three for $5. Buyers will mark which item they want to win on the tickets. Mrs. Claus will draw the winners at 8 p.m. Dec. 15.
Edwards said he wanted to help even before meeting Carlton and Makanda. "Then we met and found out that my dad and her grandfather were friends and worked together," he said.
Franklin County Circuit Clerk Jim Muir also has jumped aboard, taking to Facebook to offer a pledge and challenge.
"I am a big believer in the phrase 'strength in numbers,'" he wrote. "Certainly it would be great if one person made a donation of $25,000, however I believe it is more practical to get 1,000 people to donate $25 each."
Muir has pledged $50 a month to help the family get Makanda to Mexico for treatment.
"Some folks might consider treatment in Mexico as an 'unconventional' approach," he said. "What if this was your child, grandchild, niece, nephew or the child of a good friend? How unconventional would you be in trying to save the life of a child?"
Carlton said she and her family continue to be touched by the kindness and generosity of friends and total strangers.
"I can't sit back and wait for the monster to take her," she said. "This cancer is considered the deadliest form of pediatric cancer, but Makanda has so much fight in her ... she needs an army behind her right now ... she needs this chance at her miracle."