Volunteers ready for fundraiser Saturday at YMCA for boy, 9, with health challenges

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 17 April 2024 at 8:56 am

Photo contributed: Ahmed Cherif, 9, is thriving since coming from Tunisia to Medina with his mother a year ago. He still has months of medical procedures ahead, and a fundraiser Saturday at the YMCA in Medina will help with his medical costs.

MEDINA – Youth volunteers at Project Life and young people from the Voice Gavel Club (Junior Toastmasters) have finalized plans for a “Youth Serving Youth” fundraising day at the YMCA to benefit Ahmed Cherif, a 9-year-old from Tunisia in need of extensive medical care.

According to Linda Shakoor, director of Project Life War Orphans Rehabilitation Program,  so far since coming to America with his mother a year ago, Ahmed’s pediatric team at Golisano Children’s Hospital at Strong in Rochester have identified several conditions.

Ahmed has oro-facial syndrome II, rumination synodrome, autism and bone growth delay. He also suffers from allergies and asthma. He still has many tests and treatments ahead, including further neurological evaluation starting with an MRI of his brain. He will also be assessed for spinal scoliosis and will undergo a sleep study.

The boy’s health has been slowly improving since he arrived in Medina last year. He has received extensive dental treatment, including surgery. He no longer needs the leg braces he has worn since he was 3, due to supportive physical therapy. His eyes have been tested and now he wears corrective glasses. Some of his digestive issues have subsided and he has gained weight. He is up to 45 pounds and has grown an inch. For the first time in years, he is outgrowing his clothes.

In Tunisia, Ahmed was isolated and never attended school. Now he is attending a special education program in Buffalo arranged by Medina Central School, and he is thriving, Shakoor said.

“He is benefitting from opportunities for socialization, along with ongoing physical, occupational, vision and speech therapy,” she said.

World Life Institute’s Project Life is no stranger to handling medical cases, Shakoor added. They have sponsored more than 130 orphans of war and natural disasters for temporary visit programs in Western New York since 1997. Over the years, several children arrived here with life-threatening chronic illnesses that required major medical intervention.

Almost all of the 130 children over the years have never received dental care, so there were hundreds of trips to dentists and the UB Pediatric Dental Clinic. Project Life, therefore, is well-positioned to assist Ahmed’s mother in managing his medical appointments, conferring with physicians and getting the best possible care for him.

The event on Saturday at the YMCA has a goal of raising enough funds to support Ahmed and his mother for the year. This includes monthly pharmacy and home health supply costs, recreation, transportation, nutritious food, rent and utilities, school supplies, toys, clothing and shoes, as well as parking costs for multiple visits to the hospital.

Project Life is an entirely volunteer program. No one in the organization gets paid, Shakoor said. This means a very large percentage of donated funds goes directly to the program, not to overhead costs.

Project Life is urging everyone in the community to support this event Saturday at the YMCA. It will take place from 1 to 5 p.m. and feature events for the entire family. There will be an opportunity to walk with Ahmed during the fashion show, have fun creating crafts, bid in a silent auction, watch a charity basketball game, purchase baked goods and participate in an array of other fun activities.

Those wishing to donate online can click here for more information.