A Family’s Fight
by Lynne Ober
What seemed like a case of the flu has turned into a deadly fight for the entire Smith family. Ethan, nearly three, and his older sister, Sierra, were best play buddies. Both of them were bright, bubbly children with ready smiles and their future stretching in front of them.
But in the blink of an eye, the family finds themselves fighting to save Ethan without failing five year old Sierra. Just days before Ethan’s third birthday party, scheduled for February 17, Ethan began to run a fever and complain of not feeling well. He was tired. His legs hurt. His temperature was up and down.
On February 17 his temperature was a steady 99 degrees so his Mom, Amy, and Dad, Michael, decided to go ahead with his birthday party.
When his temperature again rose, his parents took him to the doctor – expecting to hear that he had the flu. After extensive testing, he was referred to CHAD (Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth) where his parents learned that he not only had Neuroblastoma, but he was in the final stage – stage 4.
This deadly cancer strikes only about one child in every 100,000 in America. It develops from nerve cells. A tumor, often deadly, can develop in many different areas in a child’s body. That’s one reason that it is so hard to catch this cancer early. The other reason is that this cancer’s early symptoms are negligible and it is not unusual for the cancer to have spread before it is detected.
A tumor in the abdomen can cause stomach pain, loss of appetite, or bowel and urinary problems or if the cancer has spread to the bone, the symptoms can include bone pain and that’s why Ethan’s legs hurt. His cancer had spread throughout his body, including to his bones. Ethan’s lymph nodes and liver are also cancer infested.
Ethan is facing 14 – 18 months of extreme treatment with only a twenty percent chance of survival. Even if he does survive, there’s a high percentage chance that this cancer will return and, if it does, it will be even more aggressive than it is now.
Ethan will need to spend approximately 25 days of every month at CHAD. According to a close family friend, Mariann Gobbi, Ethan faces six cycles of high does chemotherapy, surgery to remove as much of the tumor as possible, a stem cell transplant, followed by more chemo plus radiation. “If he survives all this, then he still needs therapy aimed at nursing his body back to health. The chances are slim that he will live long enough for all of this treatment,” Gobbi said.
Michael and Amy are determined to do everything possible for Ethan, but they know that Sierra cannot be ignored. At Sierra’s young age, she knows that something is terribly wrong, but can’t quite grasp what or what it means.
Sierra is described as a “girly-girl”. “I love to have my nails done,” she proudly told Mariann Gobbi. She also likes to dress up and play with dolls, but, in the past she would often be found playing with Ethan. Now she plays alone – without close contact with her mother, Amy, who spends the days at CHAD with Ethan. Michael stays at home with Sierra, but it’s not the same as having both your mom and dad around.
Since word of Ethan’s problems has become public, toys have arrived almost daily for him. Sierra often wonders why Ethan gets so many toys and she doesn’t. It’s just another one of those new puzzles that are filling her days.
Michael drives from Nashua to CHAD for every other chemo treatment to show support for both Ethan and Amy. He’s arranged for family to stay with Sierra when he has to be away. Yet another mystery for Sierra to ponder.
Amy, who worked at The Closet Factory in Hudson, has had to quit her job. Michael, a construction worker, is working when he can.
Just when it seemed that things couldn’t get worse, Michael had a car accident on a snowy evening and totaled the family car. The family then began to rely on other people for transportation from Nashua to CHAD in Lebanon.
In stepped Mariann Gobbi, whose son has been at day care with Ethan, and Jamie Whitman, Amy’s co-worker at The Closet Factory. Between them they are brimming with fund raising ideas.
“I talked to Dan Enxing at Subaru of Nashua, and he’s going to give the Smith’s a car so that they have transportation. Other businesses have pitched in are and are making donations. Wally’s Pizza has been wonderful,” said Gobbi, a real estate agent with Harmony Real Estate. “So has Charman’s.”
“We are having a fund raiser at Charman’s Restaurant on April 11. Charman’s is donating all the food so that the proceeds will go directly to the family, and we have other fund raisers in the works.”
Proceeds from these fundraisers will help the Smiths take care of daily expenses such as rent and food while they struggle to keep their family together and get medical treatment for Ethan.
“We’ve also set up a fund at Digital Credit Union (DCU) for Ethan,” said Gobbi. Anyone interested in donating can go into any branch of DCU and make a donation or they can send a check made out to "Mariann Gobbi for Ethan Smith Fund" care of Mariann Gobbi at Harmony Realty, 2 Winnhaven Drive, Hudson, New Hampshire 03051.
In the meantime, the Smiths are doing all they can to keep their family together and to help Ethan fight his battle.
Senior Citizens Losing Their Collective Voice?
by Karen High
The question last week was: What is going on with the Hudson Seniors Club; why “no place to call home” for them?
Down the road, Merrimack seemed to offer so much more - plus an attractive (and permanent) setting.
This week, we look at some other New Hampshire communities - and revisit Merrimack and Hudson - to see who ”measures up” when it comes to funding senior centers, their locations/buildings/activities.
Dover: “Dover has no grants like some towns have,” says Director Laurette Sieur. “We are housed by the city, which owns the building.” The city provides a “subsidy of $8,000 per year,” with which the Senior Center is “completely funded.” Sieur reports that the “otherwise” [small] funds for senior activities are raised through “trips, yard sales, picnics and parties.” Dues for seniors who join the Dover center are $10 per year.
Manchester: The Senior Center here is “funded by the city one-hundred-percent,” says its director, Barbara Vigneault.
According to Vigneault, Manchester is “the only city in the state which has a Department of Elderly Services.” A 1986 ordinance created the department, “which means a continued commitment to our seniors,” says Vigneault.
There is a Board of Mayor-and-Aldermen. The department allocates funds for senior center purposes, and is run “like any other city department.” Through donations, a “little store” and a flea market maintained by members, the seniors raise (extra) money for program activities. Fundraising for the newly built center on the West side is still going on, “for (the purchase of) machines and other equipment.”
Merrimack [Revisited]: Daily activities here are offered to the senior citizens of Merrimack, the majority of who are members of the Merrimack Senior Citizens Club. As an entity, the club is a “monthly tenant” on a continued basis. “They - along with a few other groups who use the building - pay rent ($200 monthly) to the John O’Leary Adult Community Center, Inc.,” according to Steve Dembow, the building’s rental coordinator.
The Saint Joseph Community Services (SJCS) is another tenant. SJCS uses the building to serve daily meals, at a nominal fee, to the visiting seniors. SJCS has a site director, and the organization also coordinates meals sent out to homebound seniors.
Another monthly tenant is a church group from Hudson, Christadelphian Ecclesia, for their Bible study.
The building itself is owned by the town of Merrimack. It is available for not-for-profit rentals, for adult functions - Dembow gives as an example, the “free meetings for pre-school information night.”
As an overseer of the building, Dembow says that the rest of the story is that the difference in operational costs - i.e. fuel, electricity, water, general interior maintenance, etc. - is made up by a town subsidy paid to the John O’Leary Adult Community Center, the operating entity of the building.
Newmarket: With an estimated population of 9,000, Newmarket has a community center which is “exactly that,” according to Jim Hilton - a center of “57 organizations.”
In the 1970’s, the senior citizens built their own center, says Hilton, with their own money, after the town gave them a piece of land.
The center holds about 150 people, and is “for all organizations.”
Currently, the town has about 700-800 senior residents.
Through dues and fundraisers - “run through Town Meeting,” the 175 to 200 active members keep the center solvent. The Seniors offer the building for functions, charging a fee to raise money. They rent it for Church services. A “No Children Allowed” policy has resulted in very little “wear and tear” on the building.
Other than the Meals on Wheels program, and a Senior Special once-a-month exercise program, no other programs are funded per se.
Harold Hood is the center’s director, elected to the two or three-year unpaid volunteer position, according to Hilton.
Pelham: The director is actually a resident of Hudson. Sue Hovling says Pelham’s center is “funded primarily through the town.” Their building is owned by the town, and the Senior Citizens Center is a regular department of the town. The director is a paid position, part of the operating budget, subject to committee approval or disapproval.
Any fundraising is “mostly to support senior activities and programs,” reports Hovling.
St. Joseph’s Community Services, she says, “do not serve the meals, but they do partially fund them, through a deal struck with SJCJ, to obtain county and state funds.”
The seniors’ congregate facilities and on-site cooks make serving their own meals feasible for them.
Rochester: According to the office clerk, this town’s only support for their Senior Center is [that they charge] “one dollar for a year’s rent.”
A town similar to Hudson’s in population (about 28,000), the Rochester Area Senior Citizens are “self-supporting.” Members number about 300, according to the clerk, identified only as “Doris.” Dues are $12 per year; fundraisers include many craft-type items. “The city doesn’t give any other funding at all,” says Doris.
Salem: Budget: $225,000 per year, according to Director Patty Drelick - “99% from the town of Salem,” she says.
Salem Senior Services is a department of the Town of Salem. They have a newly-built (two year old) town-owned building. Drelick points out that they were “lucky enough to have a $500,000 (private) donor.” The remaining $1.2 million was “funded by taxpayers,” says Drelick, remarking that the yearly budget of $225,000 is similarly funded.
The Salem Seniors are heavily dependent on volunteers” staffing over 180 such recruits, who donate their services on a regular basis.
Paid, or “regular” staffing - Drelick included - is only two and a half people. The center offers 50 different programs, catering to 260 seniors on any given day. “We really take care of our seniors,” says Drelick.
Hudson [Addendum]: Repeated calls to Hudson REC director Dave Yate’s telephone yielded only a voice-mail message, and a litany of activities for school-children - “Babe Ruth baseball”, girls’ softball; 5th and 6th graders dance at Lion’s Hall - but no mention of senior citizens or their programs.
The message directs the caller to Hudson’s Recreation website, www.hudsonrec.com, where offers are many for tots-to-teens.
The site also mentions “Women’s Softball” and “Men’s Over-35 Basketball.”
“Adults” are invited to attend Comedy Nights and dances.
Again, no mention of an invitation to Seniors or the “over-55” crowd.
One wonders: Is there an “unwritten” No Seniors Allowed rule in the recreation department? Does an attitude of “out of sight, out of mind” exist here?
Except for the use of Lions Hall two days per week - and “we use [it] the two days,” says Lucille Boucher, volunteer director - there is no town funding for the senior citizens.
Apparently, not much “interest” exists in promoting seniors’ interests in Hudson.
Is There a Senior Center on the Horizon in Hudson?
by Lynne Ober
During Public Input at the last Selectmen’s meeting, long-time Hudson resident Herb Simpson spoke to Selectmen about building a new Senior Center. He said, “I’m not big on committees. I’m a one man show, but I get things done.”
Simpson has been working on building a Senior Center since the 1990s. When Selectmen voted to deny the Seniors the use of Lions Hall for at least nine weeks every summer (one week of set up and eight weeks of summer camp for the Recreation Department), Simpson sprang into action.
He talked to Bill Tate, who has a piece of property that he’s willing to donate to the cause. Then he looked at previous plans the Seniors had developed for a Senior Center.
He told Selectmen that the property that Tate would donate would hold a building similar to Hudson’s VFW. “It will have a low profile. Have a relatively low ceiling which will make it economical to heat and be big enough for their activities,” Simpson said.
Simpson and County Commissioner Rhona Charbonneau met with the Seniors last Thursday about the proposal. “They have two weeks to decide whether to accept the land or not,” said Charbonneau, “but they were very excited that someone was going to help them. Rudy Lessard has already volunteered some help.”
According to Simpson a number of people have volunteered to help with the project. He believes that he will be able to get much of the labor donated.
Both Simpson and Charbonneau realize that fund-raising will be needed. “We’ll be looking at a variety of ways to raise funds,” said Charbonneau. “It does seem like the Town should return the money that was ear-marked for a Senior Center and then used to purchase Lions Hall. That was senior funding that Town voters had approved.”
The potential plan that Simpson showed Selectmen would have room for a bus to drive around the building. Simpson also talked about how the Seniors could use traffic lights rather than make left turns across Route 111.
Simpson is not looking for any variances. “We have to go before the Planning Board, but since we won’t be looking for any variances, it should go as smoothly as possible.”
When Board of Selectmen Chairman Bill Cole asked Selectmen if they had any questions, Selectman Terry Stewart asked Simpson to clarify that no Town dollars would be used for building maintenance or to pay utilities. “I just want that in the record,” she stated.Simpson noted that he planned to build this Senior Center with no tax dollars.