Special Children - Special Auction

Auctions are important fund raisers for many organizations in Lancaster County. These include the famous fire company “mud sales,” and those for religious or community support groups, from the Pennsylvania Haiti Benefit Auction to the Hospice of Lancaster County Labor Day Auction. Such events feature many of the foods and crafts for which the area is famous.

Since Plain people are involved in many of these auctions, these are opportunities to rub elbows with local residents without feeling like you are gawking. In fact, many auctions are planned for when visitors are in the area, since they are often some of the main bidders, especially when quilts are on the auction block!

One of the most unusual and interesting of these is the Clinic for Special Children Auction, held on the third Saturday in September, at the Leola Produce Auction on Brethren Church Road, a mile north of Route 23 in Leola.

What is the Clinic for Special Children? According to their newsletter, it is “a non-profit medical service for Amish and Mennonite children with genetic disorders. The clinic serves children by translating advances in genetics into timely diagnoses and accessible, comprehensive medical care, and by developing better understanding of heritable diseases.” Dr. Holmes Morton founded the Clinic in 1989. Since then the diagnosis of many rare disorders has saved the lives of thousands of children, often with the help of medical centers and researchers around the world. While the research can benefit children everywhere, the Clinic’s local services are some of the best available, with care plans designed especially for the individual patient.

Here is just one example of the Clinic’s work over the years. When a disorder suddenly took the lives of two young brothers in a family, there was concern about how to get blood samples and diagnose others who might be at risk. The family decided the best way to get the samples from their extended family was at an upcoming wedding. So three staff members from the Clinic “drew blood samples for three hours on a Saturday night at the wedding reception. That would only happen in Lancaster County! Out of the 63 people tested, we found 12 males who were at risk for the overwhelming infection, and 14 female carriers.” As with many of these rare genetic disorders, newborn screening may detect those most at risk and very often save lives.

Because of the Clinic’s work, practicing pediatricians and pediatric residents often request spending some time at the Clinic to learn from the experience. The results of the research can be immediate. Perhaps one pediatric resident from the Hershey Medical Center said it best --- “I have worked with many doctors and many scientists, and all I can say about Drs. Morton and Strauss is that I am in awe. The Amish people are as lucky to have this clinic as the clinic is to have the Amish.”

Even with grants that come to the Clinic, 48% of its budget comes from charitable gifts, and 28% from auction proceeds. Currently, there are auctions in Pennsylvania every year in Shippensburg, Blair County, and Lancaster, in addition to Shiloh, Ohio. The idea for the auction came from a group of volunteers in 1991.

To give you a better idea of the scope of the auction, here are just some of the statistics from the 2007 auction in Lancaster County: 3,936 donated items auctioned to 1,542 registered bidders, 97 large quilts, handmade furniture, original artwork, and even a pony with harness and wagon. The following food items were sold out by mid-afternoon: 20,000 donuts, 2,200 pork sandwiches from 8 roasted pigs, 3,100 subs, 350 pizzas, 3,000 pounds of barbecued chicken, 7,200 servings of ice cream and 550 milkshakes, 4,000 soft pretzels, 230 strawberry pies, 355 fresh fruit cups, 1,300 fried pies in 9 flavors, 570 omelets from 120 dozen eggs, and 1,700 whoopie pies in 10 variations. Plus, 1,000 pounds of ice were to fill and convert a canoe into a salad bar. Only in Lancaster County!

And so, on an isolated farm south of Strasburg, a state-of-the-art genetic research facility and a group of people known for shunning much of the world’s modern technology collaborate in an inspiring effort that helps their children and many others. If you are in town, don’t miss this auction. If there is one unforgettably inspiring, totally unique Lancaster County experience, this is it. Better yet, plan a special trip and stay overnight. Benefit a good cause and discover why the children are the true gift to the community, as they “inspire all of us to keep the Clinic growing and thriving as a source for their comfort and care.”

2008 NOTE: In addition to the Lancaster auction in Leola the third Saturday in September, other auctions are usually held in Shippensburg at Leinbach’s Produce Auction, and Blair County at Morrison Cove Produce Auction. The Shiloh, Ohio auction is usually in July. To check on auction dates, read more about the Clinic, or make a donation CONTACT: The Clinic for Special Children, P.O. Box 128, Strasburg, PA 17579. Tel. 717-687-9407. www.ClinicForSpecialChildren.org

Amish Country News Publisher's Message by Brad Igou (2004)


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