Top: photo courtesy of Lia Ortiz Bottom left: Photo by Elenna Mach Bottom right: Photo courtesy of Jason Lomax
Rockville is a fairly small community, but the people in it have rallied around big causes demonstrating a strong level of commitment and support to each other. Time and time again the community has banded together to help its members in need – whether it be with restaurant nights or simply spreading awareness on social media. But especially in recent months, the community has taken its compassion a step further and helped to make a difference in the lives of three RHS families.
The Lomax Family
When Jason and Jennifer Lomax learned of the $28,000 cost of treatment for their 8-year-old daughter Bella Lomax, who had recently been diagnosed with Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Streptococcal Infections (PANDAS), they were devastated.
Living off of two teacher salaries – Jason Lomax is the head football coach and a child development teacher and Jennifer Lomax is the information technology (IT) Specialist – they had no way of coming up with the funds needed to pay for the IV treatment of Rituxan, which was uncovered by insurance.
“We looked into selling our house. We’re in the process of selling our car and going down to a one car family,” Jason Lomax said. “We tried to do everything we could, but when a bill of that size gets dropped on you out of nowhere, other than selling our house, there was no way for us to get those kind of means.”
And that’s when they turned to the Rockville community.
The Lomax’s created a GoFundMe page Dec. 13, asking for help generating the funds that would make their “little girl healthy again.” Nine days later they had surpassed their goal, raising a total of $28,770.
Urban BBQ in Rock Creek Village Center also hosted a fundraiser Dec. 27 donating 15 percent of sales to help pay for past medical bills and follow up appointments which can range from $300 to $1200 a visit.
“It made me so sad hearing what Coach Lomax’s daughter is going through,” senior football player Cole Fairchild said. “Their family does so much for the school, so when he first put up the GoFundMe, my parents donated immediately.”
Bella Lomax received her first round of treatment Jan. 7 and second round Jan. 22. It will take about four to six months before they know if the treatment worked.
The Ortiz Family
While driving on Norbeck Road Nov. 23 senior Lia Ortiz, freshmen twins Liliana Ortiz and Iliana Ortiz, and two friends were hit by a car turning left onto Norbeck from Westbury Road, leaving the three girls and their friends critically injured.
They were taken to separate hospitals for immediate trauma treatment, where Lia Ortiz would receive a fusion for her neck fracture and surgery for her broken arm. Liliana Ortiz broke her humerus and suffered a hairline fracture in her foot. Iliana Ortiz broke the fibula and tibia bones in her leg, the left side of her jaw and her humerus like Liliana, though hers was much more severe and would require surgery.
Their mother, Nidia Sanchez, is a single mother of five, and paying for the medical bills would have been nearly impossible while unable to work caring for her children in the hospital. Her friend, Lauren Rachel, created a GoFundMe account in the days after the accident asking for donations to help Sanchez pay for the medical expenses.
And the Rockville community pulled through. RHS students and friends of the Ortiz’s shared the GoFundMe on all forms of social media and a total of $18,905 was raised in just under a month, surpassing their goal of $15,500 by over $3,000.
“It meant so much to my family that everyone was willing to donate so much,” Lia Ortiz said. “It’s gonna take awhile for things to get back to normal, but knowing that everyone at Rockville cares so much about us is making it a lot easier.”
The RHS Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA) also came together with Villa Maya, a Mexican restaurant in Rock Creek Village Center, hosting a fundraiser Dec. 12 that donated 15 percent of all credit card receipts and 20 percent of all cash receipts to the Ortiz family.
Principal Billie-Jean Bensen delivered a wreath from the Booster Club, donations from the community and a $2,000 check from the Villa Maya PTSA fundraiser to the Ortiz family home Dec. 19.
Liliana Ortiz returned to school Jan. 15, and Lia Ortiz followed on Jan. 28 at the start of second semester. Iliana Ortiz will join them soon, according to Lia Ortiz.
The Weaver Family
Gym teacher Frank Weaver’s life was turned upside down six years ago when his 10-year-old daughter, Lily Weaver, was diagnosed with stage 4 Ewing’s Sarcoma in both her lungs and arms. But fortunately, the Rockville community was ready to stand by and support him and his family with whatever they needed.
Frank Weaver took off half of the year when Lily Weaver began treatment and his wife, Amy Weaver, stopped working completely. After eight weeks of chemotherapy along with the removal of part of her upper arm, she was declared cancer-free.
She would remain cancer free for the next five years and become an advocate for childhood cancer. Friends of the Weaver’s came up with the idea of Lily’s Hope, originally a way to help them raise money to pay for treatment, but it soon became so much more.
RHS hosted a basketball game in honor of Lily Weaver when she was first diagnosed and it has since become a tradition. All money raised from concessions, t-shirt sales, a bake sale and a 50/50 raffle is donated to the Patty Pollatos foundation in partnership with Lily’s Hope. When healthy, Lily Weaver attends the basketball game and selects the winner of the 50/50 raffle at halftime. Both teams receive “Lily’s Hope” t-shirts to wear during warm-ups.
“It’s just amazing,” Frank Weaver said. “Rockville is a hidden gem, how everyone always helps each other. I love this school. I’ll stay here forever ‘til they get rid of me.”
Because of the success of the Lily’s Hope basketball games, former varsity volleyball coach Stacey Frederick began hosting a Lily’s Hope volleyball game that, like the basketball games, donates all money raised to the Patty Pollatos foundation. Last year, the varsity field hockey team partnered with the volleyball team as well, hosting a Lily’s Hope night to raise awareness for childhood cancer.
But then six years to the day that Lily Weaver was originally diagnosed, doctors discovered that the cancer was back; this time in her ribs and spine. Again, Frank Weaver took off work and Lily Weaver began treatment immediately, receiving another eight rounds of chemotherapy and radiation. She is now cancer-free once again, but will likely have to take two chemo pills a day for the rest of her life.
Lily Weaver was looking forward to the Lily’s Hope basketball games this year, which took place Feb. 8 at home versus Einstein High School. Boys played at 5:30 p.m. and girls followed at 7:15.
“That’s what community is,” gym teacher and Student Government Association (SGA) advisor Katie Gross said. “Everyone helps out everyone.”