Benefit held for boy with leukemia

Sunday, July 22, 2007
Five-year-old Jacob Coleman of Cape Girardeau was diagnosed with leukemia a little over a month ago.

A benefit held Saturday evening for 5-year-old Jacob Coleman of Cape Girardeau, who is undergoing treatment for leukemia, raised several thousand dollars to help defray the cost of his chemotherapy.

Two auctions took place as part of the benefit, held at Muddy Waters bar in Egypt Hills. One was an auction of merchandise, and the other an auction of bachelors.

Larry Coleman, Jacob's uncle, thought the event might be better described as a "Chunkendale's" rather than a Chippendale's review, but he meant no harm to any of the other 13 adult men who volunteered to be auctioned off in exchange for spending a few hours at the bar with the highest female bidder. Bids had no minimum. Results for the auction were not available by deadline.

Donated merchandise for the more traditional auction, coming from local merchants, included a drill press, a set of running boards, a microwave, a set of lamps, a barbecue grill, John Deere and Dale Earnhardt blankets, a .22-caliber rifle and tanning packages. The merchandise auction raised $5,064.

Coleman, 38, had blonde highlights added to his hair to enhance his marketability at the auction. Participating allowed him to support Jacob, who was sent to St. Louis Children's Hospital on June 14 and diagnosed with leukemia. In the last month, Jacob has had two blood transfusions, chemotherapy and steroid treatments that have left him with a compromised immune system, hair loss and swelling.

More than 60 people attended a benefit auction Saturday for Jacob Coleman at Muddy Waters north of Cape Girardeau. Auctioneer James Franks, left, and Coleman's aunt, Wanda Dees, watched for bidders during the auction. (Kit Doyle)

Jacob's mother, Amy Coleman, had to quit her job at Elements: The Ultimate Salon in Cape Girardeau to be with her son at the hospital while his father earns a living as a truck driver. She said she is grateful for the help she's received from clients and co-workers donating to an account set up with the Bank of Missouri. "I didn't realize I had so many friends," she said. "They're not just my clients, but my friends. I've never been anyone who's had to take anything from anybody. I didn't think I'd need as much help as I do."

Jacob will have chemotherapy for the next three years. "He's doing really well," she said. "He's strong. We haven't lied to him. We told him he's got leukemia and his blood is thick and there's not a medicine he can take at home."

Jacob's aunt, Wanda Dees of Marble Hill, Mo., said on a recent visit when she asked Jacob if she could hug him he told her she couldn't get too close because she "might have germs." As Gary Coleman, Jacob's father, explained, the chemotherapy leaves him vulnerable because of his low white blood cell count.

Dees wanted to help support Jacob, and once she shared Jacob's plight with bar owner James Franks and manager Janice Cosgrove, they all began to brainstorm and came up with the idea of holding benefits at the bar. Dees said she distributed more than 1,500 fliers at places women frequent in an effort to draw them to the bachelor auction.

"Gary and Amy are hard-working people. They've been in the bar a time or two. Wanda runs our sound system. This is just what you do when people need help. You do it without being asked," Franks said.

Saturday night, support for Jacob came from the bachelors and the women bidding on them. Next week, the John D. Hale Band will play at the bar and not charge for their performance. "All the proceeds from the $10 admission will go for Jacob," Franks said. Thunderstruck, a mechanical bull furnished for free by the owner, will be at the bar Aug. 11.

Gary Coleman was unable to attend the auction because of his job. He said he last saw Jacob about a week ago.

"The benefit is primarily to pay for what insurance doesn't pay and the visits back and forth to the hospital," he said. "We got a $78,000 bill from the hospital that was from just the first week."

"It makes you proud to be in the Heartland," he said. "My wife is not the type of person to ask for help. It's hard to understand. I can't believe all these people are actually helping."

Donations to Jacob's benefit account can be accepted at any Bank of Missouri location.

cpagano@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 133

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