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It's the ties that bind Cockeysville girl to Johns Hopkins Children Center

When it comes to holiday shopping for her father, Lilah Sidle has developed the perfect angle.

Not only can she come through with the tried and true necktie, but for the past two years, the 11-year-old's father and grandfather have received Jos. A Bank ties that the young Cockeysville resident has designed herself.

This year, through a partnership with the Johns Hopkins Children's Center, Lilah has yet another tie in her portfolio — and maybe, just maybe, in her dad's closet come late December.

For each of the past three years, Lilah's designs have been chosen as part of an annual contest in which patients at Johns Hopkins Children Center draw some of their favorite things. As part of the contest, the selected winners' themes are designed and sold at Jos. A Bank stores.

The proceeds, which entering this year totaled more than $900,000, go back to the Johns Hopkins Children's Center.

It's a cause that near and dear to Lilah and her family, since she spends at least six hours at the center every few weeks.

Since age 4, she has lived with cold agglutinin hemolytic anemia, a rare disorder in which her body creates antibodies that attack her own red blood cells. The disease primarily manifests itself in cold weather, but can also arise in the summer if Lilah goes swimming or if the air condition is too cold.

"It's a year-long process," said her mother, Christine Sidle, of the disease.

Lilah started her regular medicine infusions at age 7, and since then, hasn't had to have the blood transfusions that were required previously.

But six hours is a long time for Lilah, a dancer and avid reader, to be cooped up at Johns Hopkins. Christine said that during Lilah's treatments, there's always some kind of craft activity available for her.

"That's how she distracts herself," she said. "They have child life specialists who do the activities with the kids, and that really helps the time go fast."

One such activity allows the children to sketch for the tie design competition.

In her first year, Lilah submitted a sheet full of drawings. Two of the designs — one with a wreath and wrapped presents, the other of a dreidel — were chosen and produced as ties.

The next year, Lilah's tie was designed from her drawing of a snowman, and this year's necktie was produced in three colors and has the image of a worm poking out of an apple.

"My favorite would probably be the snowman one, because I love snow and I can't go in it that often," Lilah said. "When I can, it's really special."

She said this year's tie was inspired by the gummy worms and apples she found herself eating at the time. It was unveiled at a ceremony earlier this fall at Jos. A Bank's Towson location at the Shops at Kenilworth.

"It's kind of an emotional day," Christine Sidle said of the unveiling ceremony. "I get kind of choked up, because it's a lot that she goes through, and it's a nice thing to have that positive to come out of it."

Each fall, the Sidles tell family members and friends to buy the tie, and although Lilah has never encountered anyone else wearing one, she did once autograph the wreath-and-present tie for a man buying one for his son.

For everyone like that — supporting the Children's Center — more money goes back to Johns Hopkins for activities that keep children such as Lilah entertained and engaged as they're involved in medical treatments.

Depending on the day she receives the medication, Lilah has made dolls, had a song recorded for her and participated in countless other activities. Many of them are likely subsidized, at least in part, by the money raised by the ties she and her peers have created.

"We're so proud of her," Christine Sidle said.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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