Friends, as you are reading this, I would ask that you use your imagination.  For those with children and grandchildren, I dare say this should be easy.  Even those of us who don’t have children should easily follow along as well.

Go back and remember for a moment the birth of your child or children, and the joy you felt especially when you learned that he or she was born with no complications and was completely healthy.  Now, for most of you, is when I ask that you begin to use your imagination.  Imagine just 14 months later, out of nowhere your child has a seizure.  You rush your child to the hospital and following some tests, you learn that your child has Epilepsy.

You follow your doctor’s advice, placing your child on medication, but just a few months later, your child has a grand mal seizure, and the grand mal seizures continued every couple of weeks even after raising their medications.  Even with medication and therapy, your child’s speech, potty training and motor skills regress.  You also learn that each time your child has a seizure, if not treated right away, oxygen is deprived from their brain. 

peters-dog
Peter meets his service dog Rascal

This could lead to further regression and possibly be fatal.  Eventually, the doctors tell you that not only does your child have Epilepsy, but he or she has Autism as well.

Now imagine after living this for several years, you are told that it is possible to get a service dog that will not only help your child cope with some of the drastic effects of autism, but will also alert you to oncoming seizures allowing you to get your child the medical help they need right away.  But then you learn that the cost of this dog (over $17,000), no matter how you try to arrange your budget, is beyond your reach.  You try your best to apply for any grants that may be available, but you are told that you make too much money to qualify.  You are even told that if you divorce your spouse, one of you would then be able to qualify for a grant as a single parent.

This frightful situation that I have asked you to imagine has been the real-life experience of Gary and Mary Coatoam, parishioners of All Souls Catholic Church, for the past eight years.  Through some friends, a fundraising benefit started to be organized.  Mary then approached a friend who happens to be an officer of Fr. Richard J Lyons Council 5357 asking if there was some small way the Knights could help in this benefit.  He brought the story of “Peter’s Fight” to the officers and members of the council, and Knights of Council 5357 stepped up to the plate in a big way.

The benefit was held at Nathanial’s Steakhouse on Sunday, July 14th.  Our council supplied the food – pulled pork sandwiches (of course), hot dogs, hamburgers, baked beans and chips – as well as the men and women to cook and serve.  We provided some logistical help in planning the event, and we also spread the word about the fundraiser to all of the Florida councils of the Knights of Columbus.  Through the Sunday benefit, we raised a total of $2,654.  But that’s not all.  Through individual donations from members of our council and across the state, as well as council donations from us and others, that total is increased to over $7,000!

And donations from across the state continue to come in.  That is a fantastic total, and this is being sent to Canines 4 Hope, the company that is training Peter’s service dog.  But there is still around $10,000 or so needed.  The Coatoam’s are having a couple of other fund-raising opportunities in the coming months – maybe even one in our own hall.  But in the meantime, if you haven’t had the chance to donate yet, there is still time.  Please pray over this, count the blessings of your own healthy children, and consider reaching out and helping this family.

You can still donate through our council.  Just go to www.PayPal.me/KofC5357.  Please specify Peter’s Fight in the comments.  To donate by check, please make it payable to KofC 5357 and mail it to the attention of Michael Borkowski, Financial Secretary, at 3929 Lone Eagle Place; Sanford, FL 32771.

The Coatoam family has had several reasons to think circumstances in this world are stacking up against them.  I believe that we have gone out of our way (and will continue to go out of our way) to show that the Knights of Columbus are standing by their side willing to help however we can.

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