For Rachel Hartzell, it turned out to be more than just a school project.
Last weekend, her hours of planning and organizing came to fruition as members of the community turned out at a spaghetti dinner benefit organized by the Clay High School senior to help an Oregon family meet mounting medical expenses for their young twins.
But the assignment and grades took a back seat to the gratification of helping what Rachel described as “an awesome family.”
Jayden and Regan Cassidy were born 13 weeks premature. Now 21 months old, the twins have seen progress and setbacks.
Jayden had a cochlear implant last year and is hearing when the implant is turned on. Though he isn’t speaking words yet, he is imitating sounds and recognizing objects.
Regan was hospitalized in October for pneumonia and was in serious condition. Doctors transferred him to the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. Although Regan has cerebral palsy, he is walking and doing his best to keep up with his brother.
Regan also has had to deal with other complications. Bowel issues prevent him from eating more than about four ounces at a time. Doctors have agreed that he will have a tonsillectomy sometime in April, and then four to six weeks later he will undergo an airway reconstruction to repair an emergency tracheotomy that saved his life shortly after he was born.
After about two weeks, he will be released from the hospital but will need to remain in the Cincinnati area for several more weeks, depending on his progress.
The family will be facing enormous medical and related costs, on top of the remaining and ongoing medical costs.
Rachel learned about the Cassidys through her mother, who used to work with the twins’ grandmother.
“Our senior medical class had to do a community service involving anything in the medical field for our senior project,” Rachel said. “I would like to be a neo-natal nurse and thought about doing a benefit to help a local family with their medical expenses.
“I talked to my mom and step dad about what I would like to do and asked if they would help me out by doing a benefit dinner to raise money for a family in need,” she said.
“My mom told me that she knew of a family with twins that were born way too early and they needed financial help,” she said.
“After I met the boys and their parents, I knew that they were the ones that I really wanted to help if I could because those boys really touched my heart,” Rachel said.
“Clay High School allowed me to use the cafeteria for the benefit dinner. My family and friends all pitched in with their support and guidance,” she added.
“It turned out to be quite a success and the Cassidy family were so grateful,” she said. “I am hoping to continue to be a part of this awesome family’s life.”
Those who would like to make a donation may do so at any Fifth Third Bank. Contributions may be made to the account for the Benefit of Jayden and Regan Cassidy.
Steven Cassidy and son Jayden with Rachel Hartzell, the Clay High School Senior who coordinated the benefit to help defray the Cassidys’ medical expenses.