Despite battle with diseases, 'lively' 6-year-old perseveres

Activities fund family's fight against CF, sickle-cell anemia
Apr. 02, 2013 @ 05:00 AM

In several ways, local first-grader Maylonnie Downey is just like her peers; she enjoys saying her bedtime prayers and hosting sleepovers with her friends. However, the 6-year-old also faces an uphill battle against cystic fibrosis and sickle-cell anemia on a daily basis.

Plate sales, raffles, a silent auction and other activities are planned for this weekend to raise awareness for Downey's diseases and to offset medical bills incurred by the family.     

Downey's mother, Leigh Downey, said her daughter is a lively child who enjoys singing in the church choir and playing with her brothers when she is able.

"People should come and support someone in the community who is sick," Leigh Downey said. "I want people to meet Maylonnie and see she isn't a child who has given up. . . To meet her is to love her."

Friday's plate sale is set to be held at the family's church, Strait Gate Tabernacle of Faith, located at 6496 McDougald Road, Lillington. On Saturday, a plate sale, bake sale, silent auction, raffle, face painting and more will take place at Depot Park in downtown Sanford, Leigh Downey said.

"We hope more people out in the community will become aware of sickle-cell and CF," she said.

The combination of both diseases is very rare, Leigh Downey said, and her daughter's doctors said they haven't seen another case like her.

Kimberly Johnson, a close family friend and pastor of Strait Gate, is helping organize the benefit for Downey and said she is hopeful for a large crowd Saturday.

"We will have all kind of activities on Saturday," Johnson said. "There will be a bouncy house, fun activities — a real family affair. Maylonnie will be there Saturday so people can meet her and see her."

Johnson teaches first grade and said Downey is extremely smart for her age and loves her church family.

"People have been praying for her and she is grateful," Johnson said. "We want people to continue to pray for her."

There is no known cure for cystic fibrosis, and bone marrow transplants are the only known cure for sickle-cell anemia, and Johnson said the family is hopeful Downey is strong enough for a transplant.

Downey is homebound and a teacher from J.R. Ingram Elementary instructs her, Leigh Downey said. Downey has a feeding tube and must take enzymes due to her lack of appetite. The sickle-cell anemia can cause pain throughout her body, Leigh Downey said.

"Her prognosis was grim," Johnson said. "The doctors said she wouldn't make it past 2. But, obviously, she's 6 now, and her birthday is on May 1."

With several trips to Durham and Chapel Hill a month for doctor appointments and hospital visits, Leigh Downey said the money expected to be raised by the benefit is essential to paying off the family's medical bills. Downey's disability funding has recently been cut, and Leigh Downey said she is worried her child's Medicaid will also be cut.

"I just want to thank the people who have already donated toward the medical bills," she said. "It's a blessing to my husband and our family." 


Benefit for Maylonnie Downey, a local girl with sickle-cell anemia and cystic fibrosis.

All-day plate and bake sell Friday at Strait Gate Tabernacle of Faith, located at 6494 McDougald Road, Lillington. All-day plate and bake sell, raffle and silent auction Saturday at Depot Park in downtown Sanford.

Call Kimberly Johnson at (910) 578-5377 for more information.