‘Ellie Bug’ bowling fundraiser Sunday

First Posted: 2/6/2015

SIDNEY — Brandon and Jackie Ward, of Sidney, were aware that their daughter, Elizabeth, or “Ellie” as they call her, born Sept. 3, would have Down syndrome. They were also aware of the fact that many Down syndrome babies have congenital heart problems. They were taken aback when the doctors realized that Ellie had the worst of all heart defects.

Brandon Ward is a Wapakoneta High School graduate, and his wife, Jackie, is from Anna.

Ellie is missing the septum in her heart. Instead of four chambers, Ellie’s heart has one and instead of two valves, she has one. If the body cannot separate oxygenated blood, it causes heart failure, and Ellie has been in heart failure. After weeks in the hospital in Dayton, Ellie was moved to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital in November for a sedation procedure. Unfortunately, Ellie didn’t recover well from that procedure.

In the meantime, the Wards’ family life has been turned upside down.

They have two sons, Lance, 4, and Kaleb, 2, who are staying with their maternal grandparents, Neil and Genny Schroer, of Anna, while Brandon and Jackie Ward are in Cincinnati.

Jackie Ward, a reporting analyst for HealthFitness, works from her laptop, next to Ellie’s bed. Brandon Ward, a construction worker with SF Services in Pleasant Hill, drives back and forth to work every day from Cincinnati.

The Wards are staying at the Ronald McDonald House. Lance and Kaleb visit their parents on the weekends, and they too, stay at the Ronald McDonald House when visiting their parents.

“I can’t image being in their shoes, dividing time because you don’t want to leave your little one,” said Sue Maus, Brandon Ward’s aunt.

Brandon Ward’s aunts, Kay Dempsey and Sue Maus, both of Lima, as well as his mom, Sheryl Maier, of Cridersville, are holding a fundraiser from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday at Westgate Lanes. Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for children 8 and younger. This includes three hours of unlimited bowling, pizza, soda and shoe rental. In addition, a raffle will be held for prizes during the event. T-shirts will also be available to purchase in the amount of $10. The proceeds of this fundraiser will help offset medical bills for the Ward family.

“They are looking at two more open-heart surgeries before being eligible for open-heart transplant,” said Maus.

The residents of Anna rallied around the Wards. Anna High School cheerleaders, Emily Cavinder, Whitney King and Erin Inman, created fliers and distributed them to every Anna student urging the students to purchase “Ellie Bug” T-shirts to wear to the game against Fort Loramie. Jackie Ward’s niece, Makayla Platfoot, a sixth-grader at Anna, and her friends ran a bake sale during the school day. The students raised $9,000 to help offset Ellie’s medical bills.

People who would like to mail donations can text Jackie Ward’s sister, Tracy Platfoot, at 937-726-2822. The Wards also encourage people to donate to Ronald McDonald House Charities of Greater Cincinnati.

Jackie Ward has created a blog at http://elizabethkateward.blogspot.com, where friends and family can follow Ellie’s progress.

Sidney drive-in getting help

SIDNEY — “Visit the Sidney Auto Vue, where movies last 90 minutes but your memories will last a lifetime,” reads the website of Sidney’s Auto-Vue Drive-In.

Auto-Vue, a single screen, family owned drive-in theater located in Sidney, is getting financial help from Rick Cohen, of Lockport, New York.

Cohen, the owner of Transit Drive-In Theatre, located in Lockport, New York, is backpacking in order to raise awareness for the plight of the drive-in industry.

On Saturday, Cohen began walking the 1,034 miles from Kissimmee, Florida, to the site of the annual UDITOA Drive-In Owners Convention, in Camden, New Jersey, where the world’s first drive-in opened on June 6, 1933. This journey is expected to take as long as six weeks.

Cohen said that through the years he has witnessed many drive-in theaters close or be sold for developments. The smaller, seasonal drive-in theaters, have additional problems in that technological changes in the way new movies are shown on the screens is requiring all theaters to replace 35 mm projectors with expensive digital equipment, at a cost of roughly $75,000 per screen. Drive-Ins that cannot financially afford the transition are being forced to close.

Cohen chose Sidney’s Auto-Vue drive-in as the first to be helped. This drive-in has been in continual operation each summer since 1956. He plans to raise enough through contributions to fund the Auto-Vue upgrade. But, he hopes to raise more. Any funds that exceed the goal will go toward assisting additional drive-ins to make the conversion to digital.

Cohen has created a website, http://DriveInRescue.com, where he will share his travels and allow for the public to make donations. He plans on making daily updates to allow the public to see the progress he has made and allow him to share his thoughts and photos along this 1,034-mile walk.

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