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Crowd pitches in to help Boonsboro boy

January 21, 2007|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

BOONSBORO - Donald Shumaker, president of the Boonsboro Volunteer Fire Co., said he had a lot of people tell him they could get it done for 8-year-old Devin Fales.

Former Baltimore Orioles star Cal Ripken Jr.'s autograph on the leather firefighter helmet displayed at a fundraiser held Saturday for the anemia-afflicted youngster wouldn't be that difficult to obtain.

At least that's what Shumaker was led to believe.

"I spent five years trying to get that thing signed," Shumaker said.

"We even got his DNA in there," Shumaker said, pointing to photographs of Ripken signing the helmet and then wearing it. The helmet was on display Saturday at a money bonanza benefit for Fales at J.G. Cochran Auctioneers & Associates Ltd.

Emblazoned with Ripken's jersey No. 8 on the shield, the helmet is expected to be auctioned on eBay in the coming weeks, said Dennis Reese, chairman of the benefit.

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Coincidentally, the fire company's substation at Rohrersville bears the same number.

"If every firefighter took a chance on it, we'd make some money," Shumaker said.

The boy's father, Curt Fales, is a member of the fire company, and Shumaker said the youngster's plight with a rare form of anemia that causes bone marrow failure has led to a groundswell of efforts to help the family pay for thousands of dollars in medical care.

Devin returned home last week from the University of Minnesota Children's Hospital, where he underwent a bone marrow transplant on Oct. 13.

"There's not a person in there that wouldn't give their right arm to help him out," Shumaker said of the company members.

A member himself, James G. Cochran said he was more than willing to host the fundraiser, and admitted he hoped to win the top prize, if only to donate the money for the boy's care.

"Anything he needs, it doesn't matter," Cochran said as more than 200 people gathered for the fundraiser.

Shumaker said Devin's diagnosis has been a trying ordeal for the family, which has to tutor the boy at home for the next year or two because of a suppressed immune system. Devin also cannot be exposed to allergens, such as dust.

"It hasn't been easy," said Shumaker, who's hoping Ripken's autograph and subsequent selection into the National Baseball of Hall of Fame earlier this month pays dividends for Devin's family.

"For this fella', all I can get," Shumaker said.

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