Saturday, January 12, 2008

More on Please Help Give Rylee the Gift of Sight

Rylee Lovett, the Davis Shores girl suffering from a congenital condition that has made her legally blind, will be going to China for innovative stem cell treatment as her parents hoped, but her family has not yet raised all the funds needed.

The 6-year-old has Optic Nerve Hypoplasia (ONH), which results from underdevelopment of a child's optic nerve during pregnancy. ONH was previously considered incurable, but new stem cell treatment, provided by the China-based company Beike Biotech, has offered hope to patients with varying levels of improvement.

The Lovetts began their quest to raise money for the trip shortly before the holidays after reading about the treatment, which is not offered in the United States.

Though the family has not reached their financial goal of $60,000, Rylee's mother, Shayla Lovett, said they have received enough for the initial medical procedure that they hope will give their daughter sight.

"We've received about $24,000 so far," Lovett said. "That will pay for the treatment, and we're going to put the travel expenses on credit cards for now.

"We're hoping to continue to raise funds to pay for the follow-up treatment and other expenses."

Lovett said she and Rylee will fly to China on Jan. 12 and will return on Feb. 15.
After Rylee's story was published in The Record on Dec. 3, many people contacted the Lovetts wanting to help, she said.

One of them was St. Augustine resident Karen Erwin, whose daughter is one of four girls who donated her ticket to the Jan. 30 Hannah Montana concert in Jacksonville to the Lovetts, who will raffle the four tickets to raise funds.

Hannah Montana is an Emmy Award-nominated children's television series broadcast on The Disney Channel.

The series focuses on Miley Stewart, (played by Miley Cyrus, Billy Ray Cyrus' daughter), who lives a double life as an average teenage girl at school during the day, and a famous pop singer (Hannah Montana) at night.

Concerts for Hannah Montana have become a hot event, and tickets usually sell out, with some later being scalped for thousands of dollars.

The four girls, Emily Erwin, 8, Allison Courter, 9, Emily Courter, 7, and Devin Schooley, 9, make up a group called Diva Disciples, which their parents put together two years ago to teach the children moral and spiritual principles and to do outreach work, Karen Erwin said.
"We wanted to teach them to give, and to do good work," Erwin said. "We meet each month to do different projects, and this month's lesson was about what we call sacrificial giving."
The girls, who attend Good News Church, are members of the Hannah Montana fan club and devoted fans. After receiving the tickets, however, they decided to give them to Rylee.
"As much as they really wanted to go, they realized that going to a two-hour concert hardly compares to what they could do for Rylee," Erwin said. "We're very proud of their sacrifice."
The girls got to meet with Rylee and her family on Wednesday.

The Lovetts are selling raffle tickets for the concert tickets for $5 each, or six for $20, and they may be purchased through Rylee's Web site, at

On New Year's Eve, the Lovetts held a drawing for the family's 1999 Saturn, which raised $8,120. Rylee picked the winning raffle ticket, which went to Amy Buggle, who runs a Jacksonville daycare facility for disabled children, out of a jar.

Lovett said her daughter is looking forward to the trip to China.

"She's starting to realize that she will be going over there very soon," Lovett said. "But she still hasn't fully comprehended the distance that she'll be going."

In addition to on Rylee's Web site, donations to the Rylee Lovett Fund may be made at any VyStar Credit Union branch.

Checks can be made to:
Rylee Lovett Fund
210 Oglethorpt Blvd
St. Augustine, FL 32080

Contact Shayla Lovett for details:
Home: (904) 389-2839
Cell: (904) 626-1474

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