Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Community can vote for Maci to get wheelchair-accessible van

By Meg Hibbert

NEW CASTLE – Eight-year-old Maci Winebarger has defied the odds again and has completed chemotherapy to fight back against a rare form of brain stem tumor.

Her family was originally told she the Craig County girl who has smiles for everyone had only a 10 percent chance of living this long.

McCleary Elementary student Maci Winebarger was nominated as NEGU Kid of the Week – which stands for "Never Ever Give Up" for the Jessie Rees Foundation. She's shown with Craig County resident Carly Whiting while Maci, who has a rare brain stem tumor, was waiting for bloodwork.

Now the Craig County community can help Maci win a wheelchair-accessible van that will assist her family in getting Maci around not only for doctor and therapy appointments but a chance for her to be more of a regular kid with her family again.

It was two years ago this week that the Craig County girl went to Johns Hopkins University Medical Center for surgery to remove as much as possible of the tumor that was diagnosed in February 2011. She had to stay at a rehab facility across from Johns Hopkins for another four months to begin learning how to talk and hope to walk again.

Shortly after that, her family learned the tumor was growing again. Two weeks ago, she completed 15 months of chemotherapy, and last week was able to return to school at McCleary Elementary.

She had been homebound since the beginning of December, her family said, due to low blood counts and a flu outbreak at school.

Maci is scheduled to have an MRI on March 21 to see how things look, said her mother. “If all goes well, we will just continue to follow it with regular oncology visits and MRIs every three months.”

Now the little girl with the big smile for everyone needs help from the community for a chance to win a wheelchair accessible van.

People can vote once a day at http://www.mobilityawarenessmonth.com/entrant/maci-winebarger-new-castle-va/

The person with the most votes gets the new mini-van, explained Maci’s mother, Shari Winebarger. “Maci, who weighs about 60 pounds, has many doctor and therapy appointments each week and has to be lifted into the van as well as the 60-pound wheel chair. Our van is now over 10 years old as well,” her mother said.

Recently, Maci was nominated as that week’s NEGU Kid of the Week for the Jessie Rees Foundation. The letters stand for Never Ever Give Up.

Shari Winebarger explained more about the completion of Maci’s chemotherapy: “The oncology office gathered around afterward and sang her their last chemo song and gave her a gift card to Toys R Us. Our dear friend Carly Whiting got to go with us too and made it more special. Of course we had to go spend the card right away. ”

On Maci’s Caringbridge site, Shari wrote: “Now with chemo out of the way, I am already finding myself pushing to get her strength back as quickly as possible. I know I need faith to believe she is healed but I also struggle to get her well as possible before that thing has a chance to start growing again. I battle between the two. I hope she can have a long time between this chemo ending and any other issues. I would love for her to have a ‘normal’ summer this year with maybe a vacation in there somewhere and the ability to just be a kid again.”

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