BRISTOL — Bristol Elementary sixth-grader Jacob Gorton, son of Jackie and Katie Gorton, last month was diagnosed with leukemia. Since then, the cash-strapped family has received an overwhelming wave of community support.
Family friends are organizing fundraisers, have established a fund to help pay for Gorton’s treatments, and are holding a meeting for anyone interested in supporting Jacob and his family. The meeting is next Tuesday, May 8, at 6:30 p.m. in the Bristol Elementary School library at 6:30 p.m.
Jacob has also received an outpouring of support via Facebook, the social networking website. A Facebook group called “Supporting Jacob Gorton” provides updates on fundraising efforts and Jacob’s condition. The group exploded in size from three members last Wednesday, April 25, to 3,400 members this past Wednesday — almost the size of Bristol’s 3,894-person population.
In the upcoming weeks, there will be many opportunities to help raise funds for 12-year-old Jacob Gorton’s leukemia treatment. Such events include:
• A handmade bracelet sale at Mount Abraham Union High School and Bristol Elementary School. Bracelets will be available for $1 a piece and two for $1.50.
• A bake sale and lawn sale on May 12 on the Bristol Green from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
• An online silent auction from May 14-20. Join the Facebook group “Supporting Jacob Gorton” to take part.
• A benefit dance on May 18. A time and location have yet to be announced.
• A bake sale at Big Truck Day on the Bristol Recreation Field.
Donations can also be made out to the Jacob Gorton Fund, and they can be sent — along with letters of support — to:
P.O. Box 211
Bristol, VT 05443
For questions regarding upcoming fundraisers, head to the Facebook page “Supporting Jacob Gordon” or contact Annie Denny at [email protected]. Katie Gorton, Jacob’s mother, can also be reached by phone at 802-349-3404 or by e-mail at [email protected].
On Wednesday, Jacob Gorton’s 12th birthday, a shaken-up Katie Gorton expressed her gratitude to the community.
“It’s amazing how everybody’s pulling together and trying to be involved with the fundraising,” she said. “It’s amazing what a community can do when you’re in need. We’re just so grateful and thankful that we live in a good community like this.”
On Friday, April 13, Gorton twisted his ankle while playing outside at his younger brother Hunter’s birthday party.
“He woke up on Saturday the 14th in pain,” said his mother. “He was crying.”
It was the day of the state wrestling championship, and the young wrestler, who also plays baseball and basketball, wasn’t able to compete. He is the reigning champion, his mother said.
For the remainder of the weekend, he iced and elevated his leg.
“Monday morning he woke up — it was swollen and he was in excruciating pain,” Katie said. She took him to the emergency room at Porter Hospital and had X-rays taken. The doctors told the Gortons that there was no fracture, but if the pain persisted to see a pediatrician. After two nights of not sleeping well, Jacob and his mother went to Middlebury Pediatrics to see Dr. Dedra Flynn.
“I’m so thankful she was taking care of Jacob,” Katie said.
Flynn ordered another set of X-rays. When the films showed Gorton’s leg was intact, Flynn ordered blood work.
“Friday at 12:30 p.m. she called and asked, ‘Are you sitting with Jacob?’” Katie recounted. “At that point Jacob couldn’t move because he was in such excruciating pain, it was his ankle, then his knee started hurting.
“She said I’m sorry to tell you this over the phone, but this is urgent … Your son has leukemia.”
The disease, which is rare in children, is a form of cancer that spreads throughout one’s blood or bone marrow.
“Jack, my husband, dropped to the floor,” Katie said. “He started crying. We all started crying.”
The family pulled themselves together, picked up their chins and headed straight for Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington. From April 20-29, Jacob received chemotherapy treatment directly into his spine, said his mother. He also had an operation to install a line that delivers medicine straight to his heart.
Gorton’s treatment has just begun, explained his mother. In less than three weeks he’s expected to have an operation to install a more permanent line to his heart. She said the doctors told her it would likely be there for the next three years, if not longer.
Leukemia treatment is a long and arduous process, and the costs can quickly add up. For the Gortons, the financial burden is compounded by the fact that Jackie Gorton recently lost his job.
“Things are really getting tight,” Katie said. “We have to pay for this medicine and treatment … we don’t have any income right now.”
While Jackie is looking for a job and supporting his family, friends of the Gortons have teamed up to make sure there is money for Jacob’s treatments.
Annie Denny, who went to high school with Jackie Gorton, is helping spearhead the fundraising efforts.
She and a group of local women — including Melissa Coleman, Stephany Wisell and Elizabeth Roy — set up a bank account for the fund at the National Bank of Middlebury and opened a post office box to receive donations and letters of support (see sidebar). They set up the Facebook page, which is acting as an online hub for updates surrounding Jacob’s illness, and they’re organizing fundraising efforts.
Denny, who has watched as the community rallies in support of the Gortons this past week, is proud of her town and hopes the community can keep it up.
“Bristol is a good place to raise your kids,” she said. “It’s an amazing community, and when something happens, the whole town pulls together.”
Reporter Andrew Stein is at [email protected]