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3-year-old's battle against disease bridging religious gaps

June 4, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
As a 3-year-old boy fights for survival against a rare disease, his desperate need for a bone marrow transplant is teaching the surrounding community a lesson of tolerance.

Only five months ago, Ronan Godfrey appeared to be the picture of health. Now, his parents pray that the he can survive a blood disease.

"The hardest part is not knowing what is or what is not going to happen and fearing the worst," said Rachel Godfrey, Ronan's mother.

Yet in the worst of times, a surprise was waiting.

"You know what? I need to be active. I had to do something I can't just cry about it. I can't just tell her, 'Oh, it's going to be OK,' because it's not," said Gaby La Porto, one of hundreds of friends and strangers uniting to support the Godfreys.

Ronan's cause has bridged religious lines. At the Islamic Center of the Inland Empire in Rancho Cucamonga, people of many faiths were planning a major fundraiser on June 18.

"The Methodists community, some of the representatives here, have helped tremendously. The Christian community has helped, the Catholic community. I've reached out to everyone I knew," said La Porto.

La Porto also contacted the pastor of Claremont United Methodist Church.

"We don't have to be afraid of each other. We can be who we are and be in a relationship with one another," said the Rev. Sharon Rhodes-Wickett."Find that common ground, because there's plenty of it."

Also contributing to Ronan's cause is photographer Micah Escamilla. She is documenting the struggle with pictures and blogs aimed at enlisting throngs to participate in a bone marrow drive at City of Hope. This drive ultimately found a match for Ronan.

La Porto, writing on two blogs of her own, said people asked why she worked so hard for one child when so many are in need.

"When you donate for bone marrow, you are helping so many children. When you donate blood, you are helping so many children and adults, and it doesn't matter what faith. It really doesn't matter," La Porto answered.

A grueling regime of transfusions was under way for Ronan to prepare him for the transplant. Bills, as well as many uncertainties, were piling up.

"Everyone's prayers and support has truly helped us," said Ronan's mother.

What the Godfreys can count on is a community of compassion.

"Every effort is appreciated, and we know who they are, and God knows who they are and that is what matters the most," said La Porto.

Find out how you can help Ronan and his family.


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