By Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal
Three Northeast Mississippi families have been digging deep for Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital.
The families of 17-year-old Alex Russell of Pontotoc, 3-year-old Allie Beane of Guntown and 6-year-old Hunter Miller of Guntown have been competing to raise money for the Memphis children’s hospital and become the Miracle Maker Family of the Year.
“I think all three families have a deep desire to win the competition, but most of all they say ‘Le Bonheur is the true winner in the end,’” said Connie Haygood, special events manager for the Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital Regional Office.
Last year, the campaign raised $106,000, which goes to meet the greatest needs of the children’s hospital.
Alex Russell, who is now a junior at North Pontotoc High School, was treated at Le Bonheur two years ago. Her journey started with what her family thought was a migraine. At the emergency room, they got the devastating news that it looked like Alex had a brain tumor, and she needed to get to Le Bonheur immediately.
“Within 20 minutes of our arrival, we were discussing Alex’s condition with two of the top pediatric neurosurgeons in the nation,” said Beth Bryant, Alex’s mother.
During surgery, the medical team discovered abnormally formed blood vessels in the brain instead of a deadly tumor. The bleeding from the lesion damaged Alex’s peripheral vision, but she has been able to resume her studies, along with tumbling and cheerleading.
During the Family Affair competition, they’ve sold baked goods, spaghetti dinners, raffle tickets and T-shirts. Alex’s fellow cheerleaders have sold wrist bands. The family is planning a final BBQ lunch at Cherry Creek Baptist Church in Pontotoc next week.
“It’s been a lot of work, but it’s fun,” Bryant said.
Allie Beane was diagnosed with a heart defect before she was even born. She had surgery at Le Bonheur to close two holes in her heart and remove a pulmonary blockage when she was 5 months old. Since then, she’s been a happy, healthy child, although she has regular checkups and may need a follow-up procedure in her early teens.
The outpouring of support has been amazing, said dad Jordan Beane.
“It’s been really unbelievable how people have helped,” he said.
Allie’s grandparents, Jim and Barbara Beane of BBQ by Jim in Tupelo, offered free lunches on a series of Fridays in exchange for Le Bonheur donations.
Room-to-Room, where mom Amber Beane works, is hosting a Family Fun Day from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 14 with inflatables and hot dogs. The event is free, but people will have an opportunity to make donations to Le Bonheur.
In February 2011, Hunter Miller was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor and had surgery at Le Bonheur a day after the tumor was found. Since then, the checkups for Hunter, who is now in first grade at Saltillo Primary School, have confirmed the tumor isn’t growing back.
Friends, family, co-workers and teachers have rallied around the family.
Both Walmart and the Saltillo school system have held blue jean days, where they donated to Le Bonheur. Walmart associates sold hamburger plates in support of the effort.
“We try to do as much as we can for Le Bonheur,” said Suzanne Miller. “They did everything in the world for Hunter.”
Miracle Maker Blast
• 6:30 p.m. April 17
• BancorpSouth Conference Center
• Circus-themed event includes entertainment, food, silent auction and announcement of Miracle Maker Family of the Year
• Tickets are $25 for adults; $10 for
• Call (662) 840-2389