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Rallying hope: Fundraiser will benefit 2-year-old leukemia patient

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A little boy with a rare form of leukemia has captured the hearts of hundreds in his hometown of Hope, where a fundraiser Saturday is expected to raise money and spirits for the family of Chase Galbraith.

Andrew and Cortney Galbraith’s 2-year-old son was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia on Christmas Eve, requiring him to spend the next four weeks at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health in Indianapolis.

The Galbraiths celebrated both Christmas and Chase’s second birthday on Dec. 27 in his hospital room, reeling from the initial shock of the diagnosis and helping the toddler through treatment and procedures.

Chase has undergone one 10-day round of chemotherapy, which claimed his hair but not his smile. He has also had a platelet transfusion, spinal taps and bone marrow aspirations.

If you go

WHAT: Chillin’ for Chase walk, silent auction and chicken-and-noodle dinner.

WHEN: 2 to 6 p.m. Saturday

WHERE: Walk around the Hope Town Square, auction in the square’s shelter house and dinner in the basement of Hope Moravian Church, 202 Main St.

WHY: To raise money to pay for items not covered by medical insurance and offer emotional support for the family of 2-year-old Chase Galbraith of Hope, who is being treated for acute myeloid leukemia, a cancer of the blood cells.

COST: Donation of $10 per person age 6 and older is requested at the walk but not required. Freewill offering accepted for the dinner.

DONATIONS: Can be mailed to Christy Holzer, 444 Cross St., Hope, IN 47246.

The family is uncertain whether he will have to undergo a bone marrow transplant to further fight the cancer.

They do know that Chase will face at least three more rounds of chemotherapy for this specific type of blood disease, which is more common among adults older than 40. So far, Chase has handled chemotherapy well with little nausea or loss of energy, his parents said.

Chase’s parents hope his youth will be a positive factor in his treatment and recovery. Also in his favor is the fact that he began receiving treatment as soon as a blood test revealed the cancer.

Dr. Melissa Markel, Chase’s pediatric oncologist at Riley hospital, said Chase is one of only about 500 children in the U.S. who are diagnosed with this type of leukemia each year.

“It’s definitely more rare in children,” she said of the cancer that typically strikes more than 14,000 adults a year.

Markel explained that patients with this cancer usually go through intensive chemotherapy and sometimes need a bone marrow or stem cell transplant as part of their treatment.

The Galbraiths first noticed Chase having bumps and bruises on his upper body in December, followed by an on-and-off fever. After a blood test was conducted at their doctor’s office in Shelbyville, they were urged to take Chase to get more lab tests at the emergency department of Riley hospital on Christmas Eve.

Chase was admitted that day.

Because of widespread prevalence of the flu, the hospital stopped allowing any visitors outside of his parents, including Chase’s 4-year-old brother, Tristian.

Andrew Galbraith, who works at Blairex Laboratories in Columbus, and Cortney Galbraith, a stay-at-home mom, started switching days they were at the hospital with Chase so Andrew Galbraith could keep working most days and Tristian would have a more normal home schedule and keep going to preschool classes.

Jan. 21, the day Chase was released, couldn’t come too soon for the Galbraiths. But Chase will have to return to Riley as an inpatient when he undergoes further chemotherapy.

Cortney Galbraith said Tristian has become quite protective of Chase.

“Everything is all about his brother,” she said, cradling Chase in her lap at their rural Hope home last week. He wore pajamas as his mother held an ice bag on his hip.

A little fussy, she figured he was sore from the bone marrow aspiration that day.

Christy Holzer and Amanda Gosser, friends of the family, launched the idea of a fundraiser on Facebook. They have seen Saturday’s “Chillin’ for Chase” walk around the town square blossom into a much larger event with a chicken-and-noodle dinner and silent auction expected to attract at least 500 people.

Donations to the auction have included gift cards, purses, cosmetics, paintings, pizzas, a massage and freezer beef. Proceeds of the event will go toward expenses not covered by the Galbraiths’ medical insurance, including the 100-mile round trips to Riley.

Cortney Galbraith’s mother, Tracy Fugate, owner of Strawberry Fields Mercantile on the town square, originally planned to have the dinner at the restaurant inside her business. When it became clear that a larger location was needed, the dinner was moved to Hope Moravian Church.

Fugate said it’s been difficult to watch her grandson become so ill and go through so many medical procedures, but she said the brown-eyed boy seems happy most of the time. Fugate also has been touched by the community’s response.

Her customers have dropped off cards, checks and cash for the four-member family.

One person brought in a coffee can full of change that totaled $270. She also received an anonymous letter filled with $250 worth of gift cards for a gas station, fast food and a department store.

Friends have offered to cook meals, clean house or run errands.

“It really has brought out the best in people,” Fugate said. “It makes you glad to live in a small town.”

Hope is that, with about 2,100 residents.

“Every time we turn around, people are giving us cards or money or bringing us dinner and groceries,” said Andrew Galbraith, who, like his wife, is a 2000 graduate of Hauser High School.

For now, the Galbraiths are waiting for test results to see how Chase responded to his first round of chemotherapy. Then, they will prepare for Round 2.

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