Cebo Ride VI

Sam and Molly

If the Sarnelli House building could speak, it could tell many tales of individuals or groups who came to improve the lives of its little occupants. The first tale is about our very first nurse Kate Introna, who came and battled the entrenched establishment to force the government to give us the antiretroviral (ARV) medicines the children so desperately needed to live longer and healthier lives. (Kate is returning to Sarnelli in late December of this year, to be father Mike's understudy, and hopefully become someone who can inspire us all in our work for the "little folk").

The second tale is about a group of people who truly deserves attention and kudos. We never would have heard of Cebo or Ceboride, if it were not for a young newly married couple who came to us as volunteers for four months before venturing out into the business world.

Sam Mueller and Molly Krolczyk came to us in the fall of 2001. St. Patrick's edifice was just up and the boys were moving excitedly into the building. Sam and Molly occupied one of the two apartments across from the boys' dorm on the second floor. They arrived just at the most hectic and heart-rending period of Sarnelli House' short history.

At that period, we had no ARV medicine for the children; no TB medicine and no medicine for the bacterial infections that ravaged their brain. The deaths began on March 2000 with the painful passing of little Mr. Knock, a mute little boy who was a neat little guy, cheerful and energetic. A French volunteer had bought him a Frank Sinatra hat, and he wore it until he died. A room downstairs was set aside for any sick child, and it soon bore the grim name "the Dying Room". The next to fade and die in agonizing pain was little Mr. Kirk. Sam Mueller stood as his godfather as Kirk was baptized into everlasting life. On the cool, damp evening of January 6, the feast of the Epiphany, one could almost hear the creaking of saddles and the groaning of camels as the Three Kings arrived to take Kirk with them into the mist of eternity.

July 2002 saw the deaths of two more children. Little Dutch Michael died a horrible death of AIDS-induced TB, and he was followed a few days late by the death of lovely, pixie-like Nam Fon. As other untreated children sickened and were carried to the Dying Room, their little faces registered fear, horror and desperation. These tykes were sure that they were about to suffer and die agonizing deaths like their little friends. I felt absolutely helpless and powerless, and the housemothers felt the same. Several of them told me they could not bear to continue working there if babies were going to continue to sicken and die so horribly. At this point, the lowest in our short history, help came in the guise of friends and relatives of Sam and Molly.

Sam and Molly had already returned home after Kirk's death. Although they interviewed for jobs, they did not forget Kirk's last days. They knew that only the ARV medicine and new TB medicines would stave off further suffering and death. And money was desperately needed to accomplish this task. They gathered together a little band of friends and relatives, and organized "CEBORIDE", named after our first little girl to come to us with AIDS, little Miss Cebo, herself at the gates of eternity at that time.

The first CEBORIDE, with 9 bikers, was from Fond du Lac to the Wolf River in northern Wisconsin, a ride of 126 grueling miles, done in about 12 hours, over narrow roads and often hassled by rude and dangerous drivers. That first ride garnered $17,000, enough to buy ARV and all the medicines the children would need for their various diseases, including TB. The money would pay for CD 4 and viral load tests as well.

Not one child has died at Sarnelli House, thanks to CEBORIDE. This year was CEBORIDE VI, a tough 126-mile ride from Madison to Fond du Lac. Of the 32 riders, the youngest was 14, and the oldest was 67!

Money from CEBORIDE now also helps cover our OUTREACH PROGRAM, in which we visit and give aid to adults and their children in remote villages. Over 100 adults are being helped. Countless people can credit CEBORIDE with saving their lives. Those bikers and their large support staff are the heart beat of Sarnelli House. We try to impress this on the riders, that their grim riding through debilitating heat, rain and against strong head winds, driving them to the point of exhaustion, is what keeps a little girl alive, or brings hope to a poverty stricken family; sick, lonely, hungry and hopeless in a battered shack, somewhere in Northeast Thailand.  

All of this has been accomplished, thanks to a lovely young couple who did not walk away and forget. Sam and Molly now have two children, Anna and Abram James. Future Ceboriders?

Fr Mike

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