It's a time for pulling together.
As neighbors and concerned citizens unite to raise funds for a procedure to increase Jason Overman's chance of surviving cancer, 5-year-old Jason and his family have withdrawn from the public eye to bond before the coming medical ordeal.Jason suffers from neuroblastoma, a rare form of cancer that leaves him with only a 20 percent chance of survival. With a bone-marrow transplant, his chances would increase to 50 percent.
His family's insurance will not cover the procedure because it is considered experimental. The Overmans have sold their boat and refinanced their Orem home to help pay medical bills, but have not raised enough money. So neighbors are heading a community fund-raising effort.
"The surgery costs about $150,000, and we are about a third of the way there," said Kathy Woods, fund-raising coordinator. "We have around $50,000, and the UCLA Medical Center needs at least $130,000 before it will admit Jason.
"We were worried. In the first three weeks, we only raised $12,000, but the people are really coming together to help now."
Jason began feeling tired in January, Woods said.
"They said it was rheumatoid arthritis, but Jason kept feeling worse. At one point, he told Jane (Overman, Jason's mother) it felt like he had `nails in my heart.' Jane said: `That's it. I want a second opinion.' She took him to Primary Children's Hospital, and he was diagnosed right away. They started the chemotherapy in February."
Since then, Jason's weight has dropped to 32 pounds, less than three-quarters of what an average 5-year-old weighs. His blood white count is low, so he is tired most of the time. The chemotherapy that has slowed the growth of his cancer also has made his hair and eyebrows fall out, which embarrassed him in the beginning.
But he got used to it, and has been confident enough to do media interviews to draw attention to his plight.
"But the family wants to spend some private time now," Woods said. "Jason and Jane will be away from the family for at least three months for the surgery and observation period. Julie (Jason's 16-year-old sister) will be the marrow donor, and that is scary. And Jason's father and the four other kids worry, of course.
"So neighbors are taking over the fund-raising effort, and the family is spending the time before the surgery together to bond."
Woods said groups in several cities have arranged events to benefit the Jason Overman Cancer Fund.
"Orem Junior High had a carnival, Orem Elementary had roller skating, Spanish Fork and Mountain View high schools have donated their senior class funds. We have a garage sale and auction on June 11, and many local merchants have donated items. An Arabian colt will be auctioned off.
"Trafalga water park has donated the money it made on Jason Overman Day. We have about 350 donation cans at convenience stores around the state, and at Copper Rivet stores. We even have a few cans in Arizona and Wyoming.
"And people are donating their services. A veterinarian donated the money he made one day, and someone called `Mr. Mannequin' has offered to help. We're not sure how to use him yet."
Woods said Jason's marrow transplant is planned for the end of June.
"If the community keeps helping at the current rate, Jason will get his surgery."
Those wishing to donate may sent contributions to any branch of Zion's First National Bank, addressed to the Jason Overman Cancer Fund.