Concert set to raise money, hope

Show featuring local musicians will benefit a Deep Run pupil with leukemia

Education Beat

September 25, 2005|By KAREN NITKIN | KAREN NITKIN,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Madison Straw hasn't been at Deep Run Elementary School in Elkridge since last spring, but her presence still is felt.

The fourth-grader, who has leukemia, will undergo a bone marrow transplant next month. Meanwhile, a benefit concert is being held for her Wednesday at Ten Oaks Ballroom in Clarksville.

Madison's mother, Cindy Straw, has brought in signs and postcards advertising the event, and tickets are being sold in the main office.

The concert, from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., will feature such well-known local musicians as "blues and boogie pianist/saxophonist" Deanna Bogart, the Columbia Jazz Band, Blue Funk, the indie-folk-rock-pop band Private Eleanor and others. There also will be a cash bar, with proceeds benefiting Madison.

Cathy Pryor, who works in the front office at Deep Run, said school staff members have been making donations and buying tickets to the concert, which are $25. "My goal is to sell 150 tickets," she said. As of the middle of last week, she had sold 20, but she was confident she would sell more before the event.

"I would love to see it be filled to capacity," said Pryor of the ballroom, which can hold 500 people.

The concert was organized by Straw's employer, Rick Everett, owner of Everett Designers of Fine Jewelry in Clarksville. Everett said he probably has sold 200 tickets so far. He got a discount on the price of renting the space, he said, but paid for it himself.

"It was actually probably more my wife's idea than mine," he said. "We were just talking about what it is we could do, and she said, `You know a bunch of musicians, why don't we have a benefit concert?' "

Straw has worked in the store for eight years, Everett said, and Madison often came in when Straw could not find child care. Usually, she would color at the front counter while her mother worked.

Everett, who plays guitar in a band, said Bogart is a customer in his store and "has become a friend over the years." He knows members of the other groups either through his band or through his son, who takes drum lessons from a member of Blue Funk, he said.

Money raised from the event will help pay for medications that are not covered by insurance, but the main goal is to fill the ballroom, Everett said. "It's more about community support than raising money," he said.

"I'm trying to get somebody to videotape it because most likely Madison won't be able to be there."

Straw is a single mother, he added. "With two other kids, child care, and driving back and forth to the hospital every day, it's just become very difficult for her," he said. Straw's other children are Chase, 11, and Bailey, 15, who lives with Straw's mother-in-law.

Madison's first signs of trouble appeared last spring, when she began getting sore throats, fevers and viruses, Straw said. As the problems persisted, a doctor suggested that Madison undergo blood work.

"The next morning, they said I needed to bring her to the University of Maryland Medical Center. And I needed to pack my bag," Straw recalled.

That was May 17 - a day the Straw family won't forget. Madison, it turned out, had AML, or acute myelogenous leukemia.

For the next four months, Madison remained in the hospital, returning home only last week. On Oct. 3, she will undergo a bone marrow transplant at Children's Hospital in Washington. The donor will be her brother, Chase.

"He's a perfect match," Straw said. "He seems to be OK about it. ... He seems pretty proud of himself, in a way."

Madison's recovery from the transplant will take 30 to 40 days, Straw said. Chase is expected to be better in a few days. After the transplant, Madison's chances of being cured will be 60 percent to 65 percent, Straw said.

"This is just - it just does something to your life," Straw said. "When you go through something like this, you realize what's important and what's not."

Madison, who turned 9 Thursday, told her mother she did not want to speak with a reporter. But Straw said her daughter's spirit has been tremendous. "She's always smiling," she said. "She's very outgoing."

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