Community rallies behind Clear Spring teen

February 26, 2011|By ALICIA NOTARIANNI |
  • Ciara Ortiz serves spaghetti dinners to, from left, Courtney Long, Samantha Cromer, Steven Munson and Darrin Jackson their spagetti dinners at Saturday's benefit for Ortiz held at St. Paul's Reformed Church near Clear Spring.
By Yvette May, Staff Photographer

Donna Mongan had a good feeling about the spaghetti dinner benefit she was planning.

Chairwoman of the missions committee at St. Paul's Reformed Church in Clear Spring, Mongan led the effort to support 17-year-old Ciara Ortiz of Clear Spring, who is struggling with medical treatment for a paralyzed stomach.

Even before the benefit dinner even took place, people exhibited a caring spirit toward Ciara.

When Mongan went to the grocery store to buy spaghetti, the cashier commented on the quantity she was buying.

"When I mentioned we were having a spaghetti dinner for a high school senior with medical issues, the lady behind me tapped me on the shoulder and gave me a 10-dollar bill," Mongan said. "The cashier said, 'All I have on me is a dollar, but I want you to have it.'"

That spirit carried into the dinner Saturday at the church on National Pike from noon to 7 p.m. By midafternoon, around 70 people had passed through. About half donated money in addition to the $7 cost of the meal, and around a dozen had stopped in just to make a donation without having a meal.

Mongan expected a crowd to pour in around dinner time.

She said she didn't have a specific monetary goal in mind.

"We figure whatever we can raise, it's gonna help the family," she said.

Ciara and her mother Tara Ortiz, 40, of Clear Spring, spent the day at the event.

Ciara has a feeding tube that runs through her nose while she awaits a rare and expensive medical test that will help determine future treatments. Travel, initially to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Md., then to Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., where her care has been transferred, has been expensive.

Tara Ortiz said she was overwhelmed when she heard the church's missions committee was planning the benefit. Though Ciara has been struggling with her condition — known as gastroparesis — for months, Ortiz said the outpouring made her realize just how sick her daughter is.

"I understood that she was sick, but when (the church) called and said they wanted to help, that they wanted to support her, it really hit me. I didn't want to think of it like that."

Ciara said she was thankful that so many people attended the dinner.

"I am surprised. I didn't expect it to be this big of a deal," she said. "I don't know how to take everything."

Ciara's friend Morgan McIntire, 19, of Clear Spring, said she was surprised by the generosity of strangers.

"A lot of these people, we don't even know who they are, but they stopped by and donated money," McIntire said. "I never thought this community could be this strong. But something like this brings everybody together."

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