While Connor’s father, Danny, is quick to point out you can’t put a price on his son’s life, the response his family is receiving from the community, he said, has been overwhelming.
"We’re grateful," said Danny, a Kingdom Come State Park Ranger. "Connor’s still doing good and enjoying the start of the summer. Sometimes abnormal lab work mandates a trip to the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital for check ups, but he’s doing very well for someone who’s had to endure what he’s been through."
This summer will also see COTA-organized events scheduled to help the Quillen family recoup some of the high cost of organ transplantation surgery and recovery care. COTA (Children’s Organ Transplant Association), a nationally-known and applauded organization, has generated a fundraising campaign in Harlan County to help both Danny, and Connor’s mother, Jodie, who resides in Corbin with her son. The first big fundraising event was a recent golf scramble held at the Lynch Country Club. And there’s more events to come.
James Holland, vice-president of the Lynch Country Club, said the golf scramble was a success for both parties involved
"It was good for Connor and his family, and for us," Holland said. "This scramble was a big success, and brought a lot of people to the greens. I’ve known Connor since he was born, and. when it came down to him having to have the transplant, this community just did what it had to do for the family, and that’s helping with expenses. He’s a remarkable kid and I’m so glad to hear he’s doing good."
The list of area businesses and individuals donating to the "COTA for Connor Quillen" fund is getting longer and longer. On that list is Kenneth Scott, who own’s Ken’s Custom T’s in Cumberland. His business donated prizes for the golf scramble.
"You couldn’t ask for a better cause to help with," Scott said. "Connor has been through so much and has faced much more than most adults have. He’s such a special child who has the best outlook on life. Everybody who has ever met him has walked away with a smile on their face. His enthusiasm for life is contagious. So, any cause like this is something this business jumps at the opportunity to help."
Connor underwent his liver transplant surgery on Dec. 20. Born with a condition called Alagille Syndrome, which attacks vital organs such as the liver and heart, Connor has been a seriously ill child most of his life, but his health was being sustained through medication. It came to a point, however, where medicine wasn't enough anymore, and transplantation was needed.
Newly elected Rep. Fitz Steele was part of a group that included Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife officials who took Connor on a hunting trip a couple of falls ago. Although Connor was very sick at the time, one of his biggest wishes was to go deer hunting with his father. Steele was part of the group that made that happen.
"He's a fighter, and he enjoys adventure," Steele said. "He never gives up. That little fellow could have given up a long time ago, but he simply refuses to. When he's got his mind set on something, he does it — like going deer hunting. And you know what? That boy got a big buck. We could all use some of his resolve."
While small, various fundraising efforts will take place all through the summer, the next big event currently being planned is the "Black Bear Poker Run," where riders from throughout the region are coming to Harlan County to ride for Connor. The poker run is planned in September.
Those interested in making individual donations should contact BB&T Bank in Cumberland where a bank account has been set up for Connor. More can be learned about Connor on his Web site at www.COTAforconnorQ.com.
"This outpouring of community concern and contribution shouldn't surprise the Quillen family," Steele said. "People are supposed to take care of each other — and that's all we're doing."
(This is the final story in a series about Connor Quillen’s liver transplant surgery and the hope and help that’s available for families facing the same emergency)