Harford parents host Day of Giving as a way to say thanks, help others

Ashton Dean's parents are so thankful for all the support they've received — especially when Ashton was in the pediatric intensive care unit for four weeks —and they've decided to say thanks by helping others.

Rich and Betsy Dean, of Bel Air, have organized Ashton's Angels Day of Giving on Saturday, Nov. 9, when they're hosting a blood drive, pillowcase collection and food drive at St. Matthew Lutheran Church at 1200 Churchville Road in Bel Air. The event, which the Deans say they organized because "everyone needs an angel," will be from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

On Ashton's Angels Day of Giving, the children's activities, including Officer Offbeats Clown show, photo opportunities with super heroes, a visit by Santa and face painting, beginning at 11 a.m.

"So many people helped us and we just want to give back to others," Betsy Dean said. "We want to have a fun day and help others at the same time."

Ashton, 8, suffers from arteriovenous malformations, or AVM, a condition involving abnormal connections between arteries and veins, according to http://www.mayoclinic.com. Earlier this year, Ashton spent four months in the pediatric intensive care unit at a Baltimore hospital because he had severe bleeding in his nasal cavity, and it took doctors a long time to determine what was causing it and stop it.

While he was there, Ashton had three blood transfusions. They also saw how much blood was used for other patients, including trauma patients who didn't go to the emergency room, but rather straight to the PICU.

"We saw a nurse running into the room next to us with four bags of blood for her," Betsy Dean said. "It was so sad."

She had always given blood, but since Ashton was diagnosed at six months old, she hasn't really had the time, "but I have to."

So far, 40 people are registered to donate blood; the Deans are hoping to get at least 80. Walk-in donors are welcome, but those with appointments are honored first. To register to donate at Ashton's Angels drive, go to http://www.redcrossblood.org/make-donation-sponsor?field_sponsor_code_value=0537011.

While only adults can donate blood, the Deans are hosting the canned food and pillow case drives to get kids involved.

The food pantry at St. Matthew, where the event is being held, is running low, Betsy Dean said, and they're hoping to restock it.

The pillowcases are to brighten the days of the children in local pediatric hospitals.

The Deans stayed with Ashton most of the time he was in the hospital, but one night, when one of their favorite nurses was taking care of him and after a particularly rough day in the operating room, they left for a while.

"And when we came back there was a beautiful homemade pillowcase on his bed. And he was in a hospital gown," Betsy Dean said. "It just meant so much to see some color on his bed."

The pillowcases go quickly, and just as they're hoping to stock the food pantry, they're hoping to donate a whole lot of pillowcases to brighten the days of more patients.

While Ashton's pillowcase was handmade (and Betsy Dean said friends have told her they've taken their kids shopping to pick out fabric for pillowcases), the ones being donated don't have to be. Any pillowcase will be welcome.

Ashton's mom calls her older son – they also have 4-year-old, Jonah – a miracle.

"He went into cardiac and pulmonary arrest in the middle of the night. Basically he drowned in his own blood," she said.

But he's still here.

As for Ashton, he's doing "so good," his mom said.

"His walking he's working hard on and he's made improvements this week," Betsy Dean said. "Other than that, physically and emotionally he's totally himself."

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