Donor's gift 'an act of love'
A Sanford church brought together a Moore County girl with kidney failure, a Lee County writer and a Harnett County legal assistant in a quest to get that little girl a new kidney.
And now, after months of effort, 9-year-old Evie Wentz’s transplant surgery is only a few weeks away.
Evie lives with her parents, Tyler and Heather Wentz, and four siblings in Whispering Pines, a small community between Carthage and Southern Pines. She has kidney failure and, unless she is to stay on dialysis for the rest of her life — a fate her parents are trying to avoid — she needs a new kidney and the surgery to get one, which costs half a million dollars or more.
Enter Teri Clark and Jennifer Trapp. They attend the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints on Keller Andrews Road, as does the Wentz family. Both Trapp and Clark live in Sanford; Trapp lives on the Harnett County side of town and works at a Fayetteville law firm, and Clark, a freelance writer and wife of political blogger and Central Carolina Community College trustee Keith Clark, lives in Lee County.
Trapp heard about Evie’s plight and how no one in the Wentz family was a potential donor. She knew she was in the right age range and had the right blood type. So she volunteered and said she has never had second thoughts about it.
“We can’t really donate money, so I figured I’d give them the kidney,” Trapp said with a laugh.
Other than her new bond with Evie and her family, though, Trapp said she’s not looking for any sort of reward or honor — she’s just trying to live life by the Golden Rule and hoping she won’t have to miss more than four to six weeks of work recovering from the surgery.
“I don’t feel that I deserve any credit,” Trapp said. “Because I feel that if something happened to any member of my family and we couldn’t help them, then someone else would step up to offer to help us.”
Tyler Wentz called her offer “a tremendous, selfless gift ... truly an act of love.”
But it’s not just members of the local Mormon community who have been helping.
“Between the church, neighbors from here down the street and people from work, they realize that like it takes a village to raise a child,” Wentz said. “It takes a lot of people to help with this. We’ve been really blessed.”
Clark has helped them expand that village virtually. She got involved at first just because it was something happening at church, she said. But Evie’s story quickly drew her in, and now Clark is helping coordinate fundraising via the Children’s Organ Transplant Association (COTA), which will reimburse the Wentz family for Evie’s medical bills.
“Evie’s story just really hit home personally because I have children,” Clark said. “... Once you get invested in something like that, you really get invested.”
The family is asking people donate to that charity instead of directly to them, Clark said, so donors can be sure the money will only be used for Evie’s medical expenses. As of Wednesday afternoon, donors on cota.donorpages.com/PatientOnlineDonation/COTAforEvieW had given nearly $18,000.
Doctors at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill have estimated that with the Wentz family’s insurance, they’ll have to pay $45,000 for Evie’s transplant, which should last as long as 10 years before she needs another — and then another, and another, for the rest of her life.
Clark said the Wentz family started the “Kidney for Evie” Facebook page to ask for help and update people on Evie’s condition. The girl was ecstatic when she got more online friends than her mom had, Clark said, so they decided to try to get her 1,000 “likes” by Christmas.
They actually ended up with nearly 5,000, and the page kept growing, now pushing 6,200 a month later.
“I don’t think encouraging is even the right word,” Wentz said. “We’ve been overwhelmed, especially by the support of strangers. There are people donating who we don’t even know.”
Clark said she can’t see the amount of individual donations, but from having followed the page, she believes that while a few people have given large sums, most gave between $20 and $50. But even $5 can help, she said.
Wentz agreed. He works a civilian job at Fort Bragg, and he and his wife have four other young children in addition to 9-year-old Evie, their second-oldest — all healthy, but still with all the needs, stresses and time requirements that come with having kids. He said that however people help, whether it’s through a donation or another means, it matters.
“When you’re going through something this difficult, it makes you feel good to know that there are people pulling for you,” he said.