Fund-raisers help families with health crises

Special Photo 
Serena Ramlingum, 11, of McDonough is in need of a kidney transplant. Her mother said her kidneys are currently 90 percent dysfunctional.

Special Photo Serena Ramlingum, 11, of McDonough is in need of a kidney transplant. Her mother said her kidneys are currently 90 percent dysfunctional.

By Johnny Jackson


In one family, a child is in need of a kidney transplant. In another, a wife undergoes chemotherapy for breast cancer. Both families are struggling financially under the weight of the economic recession.

The families, however, may have help coming, as the community is being asked to demonstrate its support in upcoming fund-raising efforts, scheduled for Saturday, May 14.

"Sprinting for Serena" is a 5K Run, One-Mile Fun Run/Walk, and Tot Trot to benefit 11-year-old Serena Ramlingum, who is in need of a kidney transplant, according to Nikki Rogers, one of the event's organizers.

The main sponsor is the newly created organization, "Caring for a Cause." Rogers is a founding member of the organization, which was created in the fall of 2010 to help rally the community around the family of 7-year-old Madeline "Maddie" Briscoe, who had been diagnosed with the cancer, neuroblastoma.

The McDonough-based organization, composed of four founding members, is in the process of receiving its non-profit status. Rogers said the group, and its supporting cast, has provided financial assistance to four local families dealing with health crises.

"We're trying to help local families who come into need," said Rogers. "We raised nearly $27,000 for that little girl, Maddie. To date, we've raised a total of $40,000, and we've had to spend right at $30," she added. "Everything up to this point has been 100 percent donated."

Local sponsors of the "Sprinting for Serena" event include: Academy Sports + Outdoors, CJ's Hot Dogs, JCPenney, Toyota South, Mercedes Benz of South Atlanta, Chick-fil-A, Archie's Sporting Goods, and Chris Evans Designs.

Rogers said now is an opportune time for area residents to help support those who must contend with the effects of the economic recession and rising health-care costs. Serena Ramlingum's family is in dire straits since her father, John -- a machinist, welder, and detailer by trade -- was laid off from his regular job, according to Serena's mother, Vita, who said that she earns a fluctuating income as an insurance agent.

"It's been very hard on our family, and very financially difficult," said the mother.

The family of four, including Serena's 14-year-old brother, recently lost its home in an attempt to make the household budget work with the expanding expenses to treat Serena, according to Vita Ramlingum, who expressed her gratitude to supporters in the community.

"It's overwhelming," she said. "We're from New York, and things like this don't happen there. It was amazing to learn that they would be able to have a fund-raiser."

The mother said her daughter, a fourth-grader at Unity Grove Elementary School in Locust Grove, was diagnosed in 2008 with failing kidneys, by doctors at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite. She now undergoes dialysis treatment three times a week.

"She was born with Spina Bifida, and has lost 90 percent function of both of her kidneys," said Vita Ramlingum, who plans to be her daughter's kidney donor.

"I'm her mom. I would do anything for her," she explained. "Once my testing is over, we're hoping they can give her a transplant. I feel good knowing that she could actually live a full life without dialysis."

Elsewhere, office staff and agents at Primerica Financial Services in Stockbridge are attempting to galvanize support for the local branch's office manager, Peggy Brown, according to Edie Coppolino, an agent and a division leader with Primerica.

Coppolino said the office manager had cancer surgery two weeks ago, and is currently undergoing chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer. Brown's husband, David Brown, recently lost his job, and finances have tightened for the Locust Grove couple.

The local office plans to lend its support to the couple by hosting a fund-raising event on May 14.

"We're just asking everybody to come out and support the cause," said Coppolino.

The event organizer said the fund-raiser will be held, from 9 a.m., until 4 p.m., at 3265 Ga. Highway 42 North (North Henry Boulevard) in Stockbridge. It will include a yard sale, bake sale, raffle, and silent auction. To learn more, call the Stockbridge location at (770) 506-0021.

The "Sprinting for Serena" event will also take place May 14. It will be held at Academy Sports + Outdoors at South Point in McDonough, according to Rogers.

Check-in begins at 4 p.m., she said, but pre-registration is encouraged. The event's 5K begins at 5 p.m., the One-Mile Fun Run begins at 5:30 p.m., and the Tot Trot begins at 5:45 p.m. Registration for the 5K and 'Phantom Runner' is $25, including a T-shirt; the One-Mile Fun Run is $20, including a T-shirt, and $15 without. Tot Trot registration is $5 without a T-shirt.

For more information, contact Nikki Rogers at (404) 731-1635, or e-mail Rogers at nikkirogers03@yahoo.com.