Benefit raises more than $12,000 for Rushford family

Benefit raises more than $12,000 for Rushford family

By Brandon Reid, Assistant Editor

“Sell it again,” were the cries of those in the audience at the auction of the Feb. 22 benefit for Angela Rushford at Mount Morris Moose Lodge, as everything from a football autographed by the Green Bay Packers to loaves of bread and a 10-pound bag of hamburger were auctioned off.

The event raised more than $12,000 for the Rushfords, whose medical bills have reached more than $600,000 since 5-year-old Angela underwent a kidney transplant Jan. 3 in attempts to correct polycystic renal failure, a condition rare in children. The amount raised by the event may have been a little higher, but the donation jar that was passed around at the event turned up missing.

“I couldn’t believe it, it was just amazing and the turnout was great,” said Tony Rushford, Angela’s father. “I’d like to thank everybody that donated and everybody that came. It was really incredible.”

In addition to the auction, Elvis impersonator Chris Corcoran, the Rockford Lightning cheerleaders, Gotham City Band, ModelOne, Johnson’s Alibi, and two comedians also donated their time to perform at the event. U.S. Rep. Don Manzullo (R-16) kicked off the auction, selling a “Wives of Washington Cookbook,” which he later autographed.

More than 2,100 people signed the guestbook, and the auction raised $8,749. Items auctioned off included a TV, a DVD player and WTVO Channel 17’s Chloe Friedman. Those participating in the auction donated an additional $5 in return for purchasing nothing.

Angela, wearing black pants, a blue shirt that said “DANCE” on it in silvery glitter letters and her dark brown hair pulled back loosely, helped with the auction, picking out a stuffed gorilla with a banana and holding it over her head while on the shoulders of a volunteer. She closed the bidding on the item by bending over, giggling and gently saying “sold” into the auctioneer’s microphone.

Colloton’s 041000923 Auction Service of Byron donated its time to run the auction, and also pledged to donate 10 percent of its commission from its next auction to Angela’s fund.

The event was organized by 38-year-old David Harper, who donated his kidney to Angela, David’s wife Shelah, Bill Huskins and Chris Corcoran, all of Mount Morris.

“They did a lot of work in just a couple weeks,” Tony Rushford said. “They did a really good job.”

The Harpers said, although they were pleased with the results, they had been hoping to raise $30,000. David Harper said he was disappointed so few people from Rockford participated in the benefit, especially since the Rushfords are residents of Rockford. Many items donated to the auction were from businesses outside Rockford, and few people from Rockford signed the guestbook.

“I’m very impressed with the outpouring from the different businesses and people in Mount Morris, Oregon, Byron and Rochelle,” David Harper said. “Most of the businesses we approached [in Rockford] were just cold and nasty and didn’t want to get involved.”

Tony Rushford said he was impressed with, “Just how nice these people are. I thought it was great. It gave me a little more hope for our community. Maybe Rockford could be a little more like Mount Morris. I thought there would be a lot of Rockford people, but I was a little disappointed there were just a handful.”

Many businesses in Mount Morris promoted the event, such as the Super Wash car wash, which announced, “Rushford benefit, Feb. 22.” Tony Rushford said he spoke with a longtime Mount Morris resident who said the Angela Rushford benefit was one of the biggest events ever in Mount Morris.

Shelah Harper said: “What I have found out through this community is that this community has always pulled together when in need of anything for anybody. They’re very supportive and a great group of neighbors, and I’m glad to live next to them.”

The Harpers moved to Mount Morris six years ago from Cleveland, Texas, when Shelah’s grandmother was ill. Shelah is originally from Elmhurst, Ill.

Shelah said that the day after Angela’s benefit, the community of Mount Morris, population 3,100, lost the life of a 10-month-old child who was born with damaged intestines and who was on a list for a complete kidney and intestinal transplant. “My heart really goes out to that family because I don’t even want to imagine what that would be like,” Shelah Harper said.

In addition, on the same day as the benefit, a 17-year-old girl in Durham, N.C., Jessica Santillan, who had type O-positive blood, lost her life after being given a heart and lungs from a donor with type A blood in a transplant Feb. 7.

Angela Rushford had been on a list for a kidney for about six months to no avail before her parents placed a free classified ad in The Rock River Times seeking a kidney donor with type O-positive blood. David Harper, an out-of-work welder who was injured on the job in 2001, was one of about 50 people to respond to the ad. He had never seen The Rock River Times before.

Tony Rushford said doctors have said Angela is doing well and will continue to improve as long as she continues to take her medication. She will need immunosuppressive medication for the rest of her life.

Her blood pressure, which had been as high as 130 over 63 while she was in the hospital and at times much higher before that, was reported to be 96 over 49 Feb. 25. She recently had a stent removed, and as Tony Rushford said, “She has no foreign objects in her body, except for David’s kidney.”

Tony Rushford said Angela will enter kindergarten in the fall and will be performing with the Rockford Lightning cheerleaders the rest of the Lightning’s 2003 season. She was signing autographs with the Lightning cheerleaders at the Feb. 22 benefit.

Tony Rushford said Angela thought the benefit, “was a good time. She said to me, ‘Are all these people here for me?’ And I said, ‘Yeah.’ And I think she was a little blown away. It was really hard for even me to believe so many people were there for us and for her. But she kind of knew.”

No other major fund-raising events are scheduled, although a buyers’ club has been established by the Harpers to provide an ongoing revenue source. Information about the club is available online at Harper said 40 percent of all proceeds from the club will go to a trust fund for Angela and her family. Donations are also being taken at Union Savings Bank, c/o Angela Rushford Benefit, Mount Morris, IL 61054.

The Harpers said they are looking forward to some of the publicity surrounding the story to die down.

Shelah Harper said: “I’m not a media person, so, for me, it’s been a nightmare. In a way, I wish it wouldn’t have gone to this extent. But in a way, I’m also glad it did to the extent that I hope it opened some other people’s eyes. [The kids] are sick of it. They’re tired of all the chaos of it. Everybody’s on edge. I’m just ready for things to get back to normal.”

Tony Rushford said he hopes the publicity inspires others to consider organ donation. “Hopefully, this will urge people to be more acceptable for the donation part of it,” Tony Rushford said. “It’s about the greatest thing I think you can do as a human being.”

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