By Joel Hall
Clayton County Public Schools, community organizations and churches throughout the Southern Crescent, have come together to help a young woman and her family pay for a recent, life-saving, bone-marrow transplant.
On Saturday, July 31, the Clayton County Performing Arts Center (PAC), Hearts to Nourish Hope, and the Children's Organ Transplant Association (COTA) will host two benefit concerts for Clayton County native and Fairburn resident, Zalika Mason.
Since last year, Mason, 18, has been receiving treatment at Duke Children's Hospital and Health Center in Durham, N.C., due to complications from sickle cell anemia.
National Christian recording artists, "Lost and Found," will headline the concerts taking place at the Clayton County PAC next Saturday at 1 p.m., and 5 p.m. Atlanta Christian musician, Daniel "The Prodigal Son of Soul" Osbie, and McDonough-based spiritual mime, Ta'Asia Wrice, will perform during the 1 p.m., concert, while Griffin-based Christian guitarist, Darrel Sturm, and Griffin-based Christian a cappella group, "Forever Four," will perform during the 5 p.m., concert.
Local COTA Community Coordinator Betty Panick, who attended services at St. Luke Lutheran Church in McDonough for several years with the Masons, said the goal of the concerts is to raise $60,000 for Mason, who has undergone two bone-morrow transplants since last September.
She said that for a year, the Mason family has been split between Georgia and North Carolina, while Zalika receives treatment.
"The cost to do the transplant can be between $500,000 and $600,000," without insurance, Panick said. "At first, the insurance wasn't going to pay anything and then, they decided they would. We still need to raise about $60,000 to cover what the insurance doesn't, and cover their living expenses, because they are operating two households."
According family members and friends, Mason attended Pointe South Elementary in Riverdale and Mundy's Mill Middle School in Jonesboro, before matriculating to Banneker High School in College Park. Panick said Mason received the highest geometry grade in her class, despite only being able to attend high school a total of seven days between her junior and senior year, due to medical complications.
Mason is two courses away from graduation, Panick said.
Deborah Anglin, CEO of the Riverdale-based Hearts to Nourish Hope organization, said Mason also excels in drama, playing a key role in the organization's 2008 performance of "A Walk in My Shoes," an original play about the lives of teenagers across the globe.
"She played one of the teens from Iran, or Afghanistan," Anglin said. "It was showing that even with a war going on, kids go through the same issues. She started working with our play, and she got sick because she overdid it. However, she was able to come back and finish everything up. It meant so much to her, but what she did for us and taught the other students was tremendous. Now, they are giving back to her."
According to Anglin, the Clayton County PAC donated the venue for the benefit concert.
Clayton County PAC Coordinator Anita Lloyd could not be reached on Thursday for comment.
Zalika Mason's mother, Sandra Mason, a former special education paraprofessional for Clayton and Fulton county schools, gave up a teaching position at Banneker High School in order to see to her daughter's care in Durham, N.C. She described the outpouring of support from the Southern Crescent community as "amazing."
"Zalika requires full-time care," Sandra Mason said. "There is no way we could do what we are doing and keep up with our bills, without the help of the community. Both Henry and Clayton people who know us, and don't know us, have been helpful to us. It has been amazing how people have opened their hearts to us."
The cost of the concert is $20 per ticket, and all proceeds will go to COTA to assist with transplant-related expenses, according to organizers. The Clayton County PAC is located at 2530 Mount Zion Parkway in Jonesboro. For more information, call (770) 473-2875, or (678) 603-7268, or visit http://cotaforzalikam.com.