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Brashinger: Mokena woman dedicated to helping disabled neighbor

The Collins children eight years ago dressed for Halloween. Natalie 8; Becc6 Michael 16 months. BeccCollins was dressed as “Dory”

The Collins children eight years ago, dressed for Halloween. Natalie, 8; Becca, 6, and Michael, 16 months. Becca Collins was dressed as “Dory,” the character from “Finding Nemo” whose voice was the only thing that soothed her. | Supplied photo

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Updated: May 22, 2013 6:07AM



Amanda Werner, 23, knows something about being a good neighbor. A nanny by occupation, she has an affinity for children and is especially fond of the Collins children, her longtime neighbors in Mokena.

But Werner has been saddened to see the deterioration of Becca Collins, 14, from an active, healthy infant and toddler to a teen who is unable to see, speak, walk or eat on her own.

“She was my first babysitting job,” Werner said.

Werner said Becca experiences “24/7 pain and up to 150 seizures a day” because of Batten Disease, a rare, debilitating disorder of the nervous system. For the last two months, she has been working on ways to help the family.

Becca’s parents, Dawn and Mike Collins, and her siblings, Natalie, 16, and Michael, 8, do all they can to keep Becca happy and comfortable, but it is becoming more difficult.

Werner said as Becca gradually lost her sight, the family found only one thing that comforted her and even made her smile — Ellen DeGeneres’ voice as “Dory” in the movie, “Finding Nemo.”

Werner and Becca’s family want to see Becca smiling. To that end, Werner began contacting DeGeneres’ media people in mid-March, hoping that Becca could meet her and hear “Dory” in person.

“I think she deserves that moment,” Werner said.

She said she also hopes the family will have an opportunity to appear on DeGeneres’ television talk show to bring Batten Disease to national attention to further research for a cure.

She has made little headway in her attempts to reach DeGeneres, but Werner said she recently spoke to a producer on the show who told her something other than what Werner hoped to hear.

The producer told her that the chances of Becca’s plight reaching DeGeneres were slim because of the hundreds of similar requests per day that DeGeneres receives.

Werner hopes that the recent announcement of a sequel to “Finding Nemo,” entitled “Finding Dory,” will bring more attention to her request.

“It was super insane timing because ‘Finding Dory’ is the hashtag for the campaign, the T-shirts and the fundraiser,” she said.

Werner said Inspirational Medicine, a non-profit organization that helps sick children find their heroes, has taken up Becca’s cause and will produce a video to send to DeGeneres.

For now, it’s a waiting game, Werner said, but she’s not content with waiting. She’s planning a local event to bring people together in support of the Collins family.

What began as a simple get-together timed to coincide with the arrival of T-shirts with “#BeccaFindingDory” printed on them has blossomed into a full-scale fundraiser.

Werner, her parents, Joe and Pat Werner, and several other friends of the Collins family will host “Becca’s Fundraiser” April 28 to help the family with expenses associated with Becca’s condition, many of which are not covered by insurance.

In her letter to Ellen DeGeneres, Werner says she has been inspired by the Collins family who, despite their struggle to support Becca in her illness and maintain their family, are “consistently positive” people who want to make the world aware of Batten Disease to help others.

“They deserve to be recognized and (have others) see how truly special they are,” she says in the letter.

Becca’s Fundraiser will be held from noon to 3 p.m. at the William Martin VFW Post 725, 19852 Wolf Road, Mokena. The cost is $20 for ages 13 and older, $10 for those who have purchased a promotional T-shirt. Children 12 and younger are free.

The ticket price includes food and a door prize. There will be an auction, raffles and a cash bar. For information about the fundraiser, email Werner at mandawerner@gmail.com or beccadory@gmail.com.

Anyone wishing to make a video for the video compilation by Inspirational Medicine should visit www.facebook.com/beccafindingdory.com.

Donations to the Collins family can be made at First Midwest Bank, c/o Benefit for Becca, Attn: Teller Department, 19648 LaGrange Road, Mokena, IL 60448.



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