Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

April 27, 2014

Carter County students set to run for classmate

OLIVE HILL — A service project last year was so successful the seventh-grade Beta Club at West Carter Middle School is duplicating it this year, with hopes of making it an annual event.

The club is organizing a 5K run and walk to benefit one of its classmates who is suffering from a rare and serious disease. By all appearances, the event is on track to raise a significant amount of money while at the same time raising a young boy’s spirits.

The run is set for 10 a.m. May 17 and will benefit Caleb Barker, a seventh-grader who is fighting Batten disease, a nervous system disorder that causes progressive sight loss and other symptoms.

The disease is rare and Caleb suffers from an even more rare variety of the malady, said his mother, Melissa Barker. His sight has been deteriorating since around first grade, and besides that he has had to deal with balance issues, muscular weakness and other difficulties.

Caleb is a loving child who does well in school, loves movies, his iPad and “anything and everything Disney,” but he had been showing signs of introversion up until he heard the run had been planned. “Now he feels that people are rallying around him and it makes a difference,” Barker said.

The class support makes him feel special, which is important, Barker said, because it is difficult for him to understand why he is sick and has troubles other children don’t have.

This year’s run follows one last year that raised money for Jordan Holbrook, a student with bone cancer. The club raised $2,800 to help Jordan’s family with incidental expenses for out-of-town treatment.

This year’s club decided the run should be an annual event with a different recipient each year, said faculty sponsor Tara Rogers. They’re calling it the West Carter Crusade.

“We figured it worked last year, so we can do it for him this year,” club president Christian Rivers said.

Caleb’s illness touches his fellow students, said seventh-grade president Joshua Weddington. “I’ve seen him since kindergarten and to know he’s been affected that bad got to me,” he said. He has been telling everyone he knows to get involved and run in the race.

It is a community endeavor that includes students and adults from East Carter as well, Rogers said. “There’s no east-west division with this.”

Caleb’s family members can really use the help, Barker said. They have to travel regularly to Cincinnati for treatment and the costs for gas and other expenses adds up. They’ve been there five times in the past two months.

Her husband can take off work without penalty under the Family and Medical Leave Act, but he doesn’t get paid for the day.

Entry fees are $20 for participants 14 and older, $15 for those younger than 14. The first 100 registered runners receive T-shirts and goodie bags. There will be awards in several age categories.

More information is at tristateracer.com.

MIKE JAMES can be reached at mjames@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2652.

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