Baylie Wilhite is a 4-year-old girl who has septo-optic neuritis, a condition which has caused her to be blind since birth.
She was raised for two years by her grandma, who had stage IV cancer and died shortly after Baylie’s parents were involved in a fatal car crash in 2014. Since then, Baylie’s grandpa, Brent Ashpaugh, and Tina Beauchamp have raised her.
Baylie’s medical records were recently sent to a hospital in China, and the doctors there approved her for a stem cell surgery that had a 90 percent chance of recovering her vision, but will cost the family $25,000. After receiving the news, Ashpaugh and Beauchamp were invited to speak at one of the North Vernon Lions Club meetings, and the club decided on the spot to help the girl.
“As soon as we saw Baylie, we knew we needed to do it,” North Vernon Lions Club President Kathy Barber said.
“Even if the Lions Club hadn’t immediately jumped at the chance to help like they did, Brian and I would have,” she added, referencing her husband Brian Barber, who also is a Lions Club member.
The North Vernon Lions Club partnered with Mission 22, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing veteran suicide, to host a benefit for Baylie and her family Oct. 15 at the Jennings County Community Building. The benefit consisted of a side-by-side and Jeep ride that circled the county, dinner prepared by Red Earles of Mission 22, live and silent auctions and a performance by local band Hotwired.
The benefit had a wonderful turnout; the Jeep ride had 52 riders and all auction items were sold, resulting in a total of approximately $12,000 to put toward Baylie’s surgery.
Baylie’s family was grateful for all the effort the community put into helping their little girl.
Between the family’s savings, monies raised with other fundraisers and the recent benefit, they are still $8,000 shy of the $25,000 goal. There is an active GoFundMe page where anyone can help contribute to funding Baylie’s surgery, and it can easily be found by searching “AVision4Baylie” in the search box on GoFundMe.com.
“People don’t realize what they take for granted because they can see every day,” Barber said. “We, as a community, can help this little girl see the beauty in this world.”