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Families thank the community for the gift of hope –

by Terri Hogan

Senior Staff Writer

At Thanksgiving, families gather to reflect on all the reasons they are thankful.

This holiday season, a few local families whose children are dealing with life-threatening illnesses or injuries are particularly grateful for community support, which makes dealing with their challenges a little bit easier.

Elouise Sloan, the daughter of Michele and Britt Sloan of Rockville, recently celebrated her 14th birthday. She was able to play and run as a young child, but now is confined to a chair and has undergone multiple surgeries and medical procedures.

Over the past few years, The Greater Olney News has featured several stories about Elouise, who is diagnosed with a rare, progressive neurological condition called Hypomyelination with Atrophy of Basal ganglia and Cerebellum (H-ABC).

Over time, the condition affects mobility and other body functions, requiring continual one-on-one care.

Last month, The Greater Olney News reported that Michele and Britt Sloan have been desperately trying to help their daughter by raising funds for research to stop the progression of the disease in Elouise and other children.

Researchers are lined up, but the Sloans have learned that obtaining funding for a rare disease is extremely difficult.

Soon after the article appeared, an anonymous person from Sandy Spring, who read about Elouise in the newspaper, made a donation of $100,000 — earmarked for research to the H-ABC foundation, a nonprofit organization founded by the Sloans.

“This was amazing and an answer to our prayers, and frankly we are truly humbled by the generosity,” Michele Sloan said. “We are so grateful for this extraordinary donation and all the help we are receiving from all of our supporters. It gives us renewed hope and energy.”

Sloan said she is also touched by others that may not be able to contribute large amounts, but who have reached out saying they felt compelled to help.

“That, too, is huge — heartfelt outreach by strangers wanting to help,” she said.
Chris Messer of Sandy Spring has not met the Sloans and had not heard of them or H-ABC until reading about Elouise in The Greater Olney News. But he was moved to help.

“I am the father of two small children, and even though we are going through some serious issues, I can’t imagine what this family is going through,” he said. “It took the attention off myself and onto helping others.”

Messer said he made a “modest contribution” through the H-ABC GoFundMe page, but felt compelled to do more. Using his marketing background, he is enlisting the help of his contacts and resources, as well as the support of Hampshire View Baptist Church to do what they can to help Elouise.

Sloan said that there are many supporters in the community, including Charities Angels, DrinkMore Water, The Manor at Silo Falls, Sandy Spring Bank, Earle B. Wood Middle School in Aspen Hill, and lots of others, and she is thankful for all of them.

“I know there are a lot of places where money can be spent, but when you are saving lives, what is more important than that?” she said.

What is she most thankful for this Thanksgiving? “That we still have Elouise with us, and there is hope.”


The ‘gratitude list’ grows every day


On April 18, 2015, Andrew Gallup, son of Olney residents Tom and Suzanne Gallup, was involved in an accident in Florida, resulting in a severe Traumatic Brain Injury.

Tom and Suzanne, along with a team of nurses and therapists, have been caring for Andrew at their home since the accident.

To help alleviate the financial burden on the family, Oakdale United Methodist Men have held fundraising breakfasts the past four years to contribute to the family’s needs, which have included a generator to prevent downtime for Andrew’s many medical devices, a stander/walker, nursing care not covered by insurance, an overhead transport lift and therapy treatments beyond insurance coverage.

This year’s breakfast, previewed in The Greater Olney News on Sept. 4, resulted in what organizers said was an incredible turnout and a $13,000 donation to Andrew’s Special Needs Trust.

Tom Gallup said he and his family have a “gratitude list” and add something to it each night.

He is most thankful that Andrew was spared. Many people with injuries as severe as his do not survive.

“Although he remains in a minimally-conscious state, there are times that he is there, and he smiles, nods and even says our names,” Tom Gallup said.

Gallup is also grateful to his Oakdale church family — Sam Beatty, Bill Nullmeyer and others who have provided meals, completed necessary renovations to their home, and have sat at the hospital with Tom and Suzanne each time Andrew is admitted.

He is also grateful that they are able to care for Andrew at home, for his real estate appraisal business that he is able to run from home, and for all the others that have helped their family in many ways — Andrew’s friends who flew to Florida after the accident, including Samantha Stewart, who organizes an annual fundraiser to benefit the trust, and a new friend, Gaby Gonzales.

Gonzales met Andrew in the neighborhood while he was being taken for a walk in his wheelchair earlier this year. Since that first encounter, she has befriended Andrew and become a huge part of the Gallup family’s lives.

Gonzalez and her three children (ages 6, 4 and 3) visit every few days. Her husband, a chef, has provided meals for the family.

“Andrew and Gaby are nearly the same age and she just seems to have a way to bring out the best in him,” Tom Gallup said. “Although he is mostly non-verbal, you can tell he ‘lights up’ when she visits. It is so great to have someone that looks past Andrew’s handicap and just enjoys being with him.”

Gonzales says she is just as grateful for the Gallup family as they are for her.

“I find him the most inspirational person I have ever met,” she said. “He is a living miracle.”

She said she doesn’t visit Andrew just to “feel good,” she does it because he has become her friend.


‘Our family was supported by family, friends and strangers’


Last month, The Greater Olney News also shared the story of 3-year-old Finley.

Yvonne Coyle, who lives just south of Olney, told the newspaper that her granddaughter was at Children’s National Medical Center. Diagnosed with Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome and Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation, she required a variety of blood products — especially platelets from Rh-negative blood because her blood would not clot.

Coyle put out a plea for those with Rh-negative blood to donate platelets to help her granddaughter.

As of last week, Finley was home and doing very well.

“We will never know who donated platelets due to HIPAA laws,” Coyle said. “But when she first got sick, they had to go to Baltimore for platelets, which was worrisome and stressful.”

HIPAA refers to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which requires privacy for everyone in health care matters.

Coyle said after the story ran in The Greater Olney News and they posted on social media, they no longer had to go to Baltimore for platelets.

“It clearly made a difference, and we are very grateful” she said.

Unlike whole blood, platelets cannot be frozen and expire in a few days. Finley received close to 100 units of platelets while she was at Children’s Hospital.

Finley does not have any immediate needs.

Coyle said she is most thankful that Finley is home and recovering, and that the family is all together.

“Being thankful that Finley is home encompasses many things, including all the many people from near and far who supported our family in many ways,” Coyle said. “Donating platelets, providing meals, offering prayers and good thoughts, and so many more ways that our family was supported by family, friends and strangers.”


    To help Elouise and others with H-ABC, go to GoFundMe.com/elouise1 or contact Michele Sloan at [email protected].

    To make a donation to the Andrew Gallup Special Needs Trust, send a check to Oakdale Church United Methodist Men, Attention Ira Branson, Treasurer, at 3425 Emory Church Road, Olney, MD 20832. For more, contact Tom Gallup at [email protected].

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