CLINTON — The spirit of giving was alive and partying Saturday night, as Wabash Valley residents poured into the Clinton Fraternal Order of the Eagles lodge to help Sierra Cooper — a 21-year-old will little time left to live.
Funds raised at the event will go toward the funeral and medical expenses of Sierra, who is terminally ill with cystic fibrosis. Before Christmas, doctors told Cooper she had between two months and two weeks left to live.
But on Saturday, Sierra was part of the party, as she sat at a table in the lodge’s family room surrounded by friends just after 4 p.m. as more than 100 neighbors crowded the tables, eating mostaccioli and surveying items available in the silent auction. “Great turnout so far,” a pasta eating Sierra said, while seated in a wheelchair and receiving oxygen.
On the other side of the wall, the barroom was full with another 100-or-so waiting for the bands to play.
“It’s going on ’til everybody leaves,” FOE president Jody Weber said of the party which was planned to run past midnight.
Sierra was hospitalized 30 times in 2009 and has undergone numerous surgeries. Cystic fibrosis, a disease which affects the lungs and digestive system, produces thick mucus which clogs the lungs and interferes with the pancreas and its ability to produce enzymes.
Her mother, Sallie, said she was shocked at the turnout for the event. “I’m just speechless,” she said. “And that’s unusual for me.”
Weber said funeral expenses are expected to run about $6,000. “We’re over $1,300 right now,” he said shortly after 4 p.m., noting that number didn’t include donations still pouring in by way of silent auction bids and dinner tickets.
Tickets were sold in advance and at the door for the dinner and auction which included a three-band performance.
Carl Compton of the Country Music Makers said his band was glad to donate their time to the cause.
“We’re delighted to do this benefit because several of us know Sierra personally,” he said, explaining she had been a friend to children of the band members who also died from the disease.
Mike Lowry of the band Mean Street, and Richard Price of Stone Wheel Orchestra, said they were happy to involved.
“We’re just trying to help Sierra,” Price said. “We’re all glad she allowed us to be a part of it.”
Lowry added that planning for the event just launched on Christmas Eve with an e-mail and a quick meeting amongst friends and family. The way the community has come together for Cooper, who has no life insurance, has been impressive. “I’m just glad to be a part of it,” he said.
Brian Boyce can be reached at 812-231-4253 or email@example.com.
• Contributions to the Sierra Cooper Benefit Fund can be made at any First Financial Bank location.