Family works to start foundation
ROCKTON - Kayleigh Ali put up a good fight in a short amount of time.
But it wasn't enough. At not even a year old, Kayleigh lost her battle with tumors in her liver and died in April.
Now, Kayleigh's family continues to fight not only for her, but the thousands of children who go to Children's Hospital in Milwaukee for needed treatment. But they want to do more than raise money on behalf of Kayleigh. Their goal is to raise $25,000 in order to start a foundation in her honor to help fund medical research.
"We want to raise as much as we can this year, but we know $25,000 will take some time," the girl's mother, Nicole Ali, said.
The family will begin its fund-raising campaign by participating in the Briggs and Al's Run and Walk for Children's Hospital on Sept. 24 in Milwaukee. Nicole and Jason Ali will complete in the 8K run, while daughter, Kameron, will make her way through the 5K or 8K walk.
Nicole said their training has been easy compared to what Kayleigh went through.
The family noticed the baby had an enlarged stomach and wasn't eating last November, but a trip to the doctor assured them there was nothing wrong. They were told the same thing a few months later, but were referred to Children's Hospital in Milwaukee in January.
An X-ray showed a cluster on her liver, which the family would later find out was a hemangioma. Nicole and Jason were told the cluster would shrink with medication or go away on its own.
But soon the family learned the awful truth. Kayleigh's stomach continued to enlarge and further tests in the spring revealed the tumors were growing. The tumors were growing so fast that they left the small girl with breathing complications. As doctors rushed to figure out how to treat the tumors, Kayleigh's condition worsened.
She died April 27.
"There just wasn't enough time," Nicole said.
While they lived in Milwaukee through part of Kayleigh's illness, the family recently moved to Rockton to be closer to Nicole's family. She is the daughter of Steve and Kathy Machado of Rockton, and is a 1991 graduate of Hononegah High School. Jason Ali is from New York, and has spent the last eight years in the Army. He is set to be discharged next month.
In their grief, the family looked for a way to honor Kayleigh's memory. They soon discovered the Briggs & Al's Run & Walk, named after long-time Marquette University basketball coach Al McGuire, and sponsored by Briggs & Stratton. Current Marquette University basketball coach Tom Crean and his wife Joani will be this year's race grand marshals.
More than 17,000 people participated in the 2004 event, raising $1 million.
Locally, the Ali family has not only started raising money in Kayleigh's name, but training for the run.
"We're up to three miles," Nicole said, adding Kameron rides her bike alongside her mom and dad as they train.
Shortly after deciding to participate in the race, one of the doctors who treated Kayleigh offered to lead the way in raising enough money to name a foundation after the girl. The foundation would then go toward research for hemangioma cases.
Even though they still hope to raise $10,000 by this year's race, their long-term goal is to raise the needed $25,000 to endow a foundation in Kayleigh's honor.
So far, they've raised more than $3,200. In addition to coin collection cans placed around the area, the Ali family is looking for private donors and businesses to donate in order to keep their efforts going.
Anyone wanting to donate to Children's Hospital on behalf of Kayleigh Ali and the Ali family can do so via the Internet at www.justgiving.com/pfp/kayleighali. Checks made out to Children's Hospital & Health System Foundation can be mailed to the Ali Family, 2302 Edge Rock Road, Rockton, Ill., 61072.