Friday, April 10, 2009

Walking to Keep Kids Smiling

To see the article on the site it was published on, click here:

Kaitlyn Shannon Cross is a cute kid. With mid-afternoon blue eyes, frenzied, curly hair, and a playful smile, she might be mistaken for any other child. But she’s not just like any other child. Kaitlyn was born six weeks premature with a congenital kidney defect and a diagnosis of End Stage Renal Disease, something that has been addressed and rectified with the most urgent and loving care.

Kaitlyn received a kidney from her mother, Kelly Cross in a life saving transplant procedure when she was just 17 months old. “Another transplant, perhaps two, are likely in her lifetime,” said a close family member.

Now, three years old, Kaitlyn is in good health, due in part to the volunteers who have been working with the non-profit, Children’s Organ Transplant Association (C.O.T.A.) in raising funds in the greater Long Valley, NJ area, as the cost of any transplant can cost upwards of $500,000.

One such volunteer is Long Valley resident Mike Gaskill, who is organizing a Walk-A-Thon to acquire donations for families like Kaitlyn’s with medical costs that are not covered by insurance.

“All of us are fairly new at this,” Gaskill says of organizing the event with three others, “But I have to say, so far, we’re having great success.”

The Walk-A-Thon, which will be held on April 26th from 1 to 5 PM in Rock Spring Park, East Springtown Rd. in Washington Township, is just one of many activities to raise money for children in need of organ transplants. Last year, there were both a quilt raffle and a golf outing that were both very successful events. This year, there will be another golf outing on June 8th at Minebrook Golf Club in Hackettstown.

“I’ve just tried to stuff together,” says Tom Cross, who has been acting as a campaign coordinator for all of the C.O.T.A. for Kaitlyn events thus far, “I’ve been fortunate enough to recruit good people to help.”

Those good people often make up the entire community, though, as emphasized by Mike Gaskill’s outreach to local stores and schools around the area to get as many people involved as possible.

“We got ShopRite here in Mansfield and Sam’s Club [to help us out with goods], Gaskill says, “We’re also getting ambassadors for Kaitlyn.”

These said ambassadors are actual students from all four elementary schools and one middle school in the area who will be going door to door to ask for donations and sponsorship for the Walk-A-Thon. Gaskill is currently in talks with the high school, as well.

“Our goal is to raise $7,500 dollars,” says Gaskill, who is also trying to get the parents of the ambassadors involved, too, so they can acquire more funds and also go with their children when they go door to door in the neighborhood, “[and while] We don’t quite know the number of ambassadors yet, our hope is to get [at least] 5% support, so we should be looking at 150 kids.”

At the Walk-A-Thon, there will also be family entertainment, carnival games, and also refreshments to raise some money.

“I met Kaitlyn as a bundle of energy at 18 months,” Gaskill says, whose main focus in all this is to make sure that Kaitlyn stays like that for the rest of her life, “But she still requires medical attention and support.”

If you are interested in helping children like Kaitlyn, visit the C.O.T.A. website at And if you want to help Kaitlyn directly, visit her personal page at

No comments: