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Got mail? Well-wishers send hundreds of cards to sick boy

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Anna Marie Lux
January 15, 2014

MILTON--Colin Cahill looks forward to the mail, even in the hospital.

Not the kind that arrives electronically, but the old-fashioned kind that he can hold in his small hands.

The 5-year-old depends on his mom and dad, Kristie Briggs and Joe Cahill, to read the greetings inside.

Last month, well-wishing strangers mailed Colin more than 500 holiday cards, which are still trickling into his Milton home.

“All these people are real angels,” Kristie said. “When he opens the cards, he smiles. It helps me to see him happy.”

The cards, some from around the world, are part of an outpouring of support since the boy was diagnosed with a rare form of serious childhood cancer known as neuroblastoma.

“I don't know what words to use,” Kristie said. “But it warms my heart to know that people are thinking of him, a kid they don't even know.”

Cards have arrived from as far away as England and Japan. One from the Secret Service was signed by eight special agents and included photos of White House pets. The postman even brought a box of goodies from the Green Bay Packers, including a greeting from Aaron Rodgers.

Holly Kutz of Janesville sparked the avalanche of mail and now has a new goal. She wants Colin to receive at least 300 letters and cards for Valentine's Day.

“When I found out he was ill, I wanted to do something positive,” said Kutz, Colin's relative. “I put some of Colin's story on Facebook and told my friends about him. People don't know this child, but they are doing what they can to make his day a little brighter.”

Kutz manages Wesley Park Senior Apartments, where residents also helped get the word out.

One man formerly worked for the Secret Service and asked the agency to mail a card.

One woman's son, who lives overseas, sent greetings.

A student at Craig High School learned of the effort and got the art department involved. Her peers created a huge Santa card, which was stuffed on the inside with dozens of smaller cards and hand delivered.

When Kutz found out how many cards Colin received, she was pleased.

“It warms my heart and makes me look at the world a little differently,” she said. “I'm going to push hard to keep the mail coming. After Valentine's Day, there's Easter, May Day and the Fourth of July. I want Colin to know that people are thinking of him. The more positives we can create for him the faster he will recover.”

Kristie and Joe got their son's diagnosis in mid-November, after Colin had been feeling ill and tired. Kristie quit working so she could care full time for Colin, who has state health insurance.

“Most of the medical bills are covered,” Kristie said. “But we have to pay out of pocket for some prescriptions.”

Colin just finished the third of five rounds of aggressive chemotherapy at American Family Children's Hospital, Madison, to treat a Stage 4 tumor wrapped around both kidneys and stretching to his spine. Doctors found cancer in his bone marrow. Colin has nausea, but he remains in good spirits.

In the months ahead, the child is scheduled for surgery, an experimental procedure and eventually a bone-marrow transplant, Kristie said. Treatment for Colin, who attends pre-kindergarten at Milton West, will take about 18 months.

“Colin has been dealing with it quite well,” Kristie said. “He doesn't mind going to the hospital, where he knows he can push a button and the nurses will help him. At one point, he was charging them a dollar to give him a shot.”

Colin's grandmother Andrea Cahill said Colin “always has a smile on his face.”

“I think he has been handling it better than most of us,” she said.

Andrea called community support for Colin phenomenal.

On New Year's Day, The Cove bar in Milton hosted a meat raffle to raise money for Colin and his family. Andrea said the bar was packed in spite of snow-covered roads and frigid weather. Another fundraiser for the family is Saturday at Milton's Varsity Lanes. In addition, donations can be made in citywide collection containers.

“Word gets around fast,” Andrea said. “That's part of living in a small community, where everyone knows everyone. People can relate to the situation, even people we don't know.”

Anna Marie Lux is a columnist for The Gazette. Her columns run Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call her with ideas or comments at (608) 755-8264, or email amarielux@gazettextra.com.



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