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Senior citizens chip in to help 11-month-old

March 21, 2006|by JANET HEIM

"Don't forget the coffee can for Allyson," said Annie Woods, 85, as fellow residents of Francis Murphy Apartments passed by her display in the lobby last Wednesday and Thursday. "Any kind of donation, we accept," she added.

The springtime display - a coffee can for donations dressed up in a gift bag, two small pink stuffed animals, a bowl of Hershey's Kisses and a greeting card to sign - was the brainchild of Woods, who wanted to do something to help the family of Allyson Semler, an 11-month-old Hagerstown resident who has a rare progressive disease.

As people put change and bills into the can, Woods urged them to sign the card and told them to take a Hershey's Kiss - "a Kiss from Allyson," she said. Woods said when she was buying the items at CVS Pharmacy and explained to the cashier what she was doing, the cashier handed her three $1 bills and told her that was her first donation.

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Woods read of the auction benefit the Maugansville Ruritan Club had on Saturday, with the proceeds going to Allyson's family, but thought it had limited appeal for the residents.

"What do we need at an auction? We have already downsized to be here," Woods said.

Instead, she came up with a way for the residents to contribute. Woods encouraged any kind of donation, even small change, and said one gentleman gave a handful of pennies. In all, $200 was raised.

"It all adds up," Woods said. "All the residents, we're on limited incomes, but we're willing to share."

The residents already have a connection to Allyson. Her great-grandparents, Leon and Joyce Connor, also Francis Murphy residents, baby-sit her during the week, while Allyson's parents are at work.

They're used to seeing Leon Connor pushing Allyson in her stroller or pulling her in the walker he's rigged with rope, as they go to the lobby to get the day's mail.

"She's a very pleasant baby. She never cries," said Connor, who is the grandfather to Jamie Lynn Connor, Allyson's mother.

Allyson has Moyamoya disease, which obstructs flood flow through the major blood vessels at the base of the brain. As the disease progresses, it causes brain damage, which leads to seizures and strokes.

She will undergo a 16-hour surgical procedure on Tuesday, March 28, at Children's Hospital Boston. The surgery will restore blood flow to her brain.

Leon Connor said so many people have gone out of their way to help Allyson and her family as they've learned of their story.

"It's nice when people help others," Woods said. "We have been inspired just watching this child."

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