When 3-year-old Ross Cochran was diagnosed with lymphoma cancer in October 1991, his parents, Laurie and Dan, suddenly found themselves on a harrowing emotional and financial roller coaster.
The ride isn't over for the Columbia family yet, but thanks to the unexpected outpouring of generosity and concern of a lot of strangers during the past three months, the couple's faith in human nature has been bolstered.
Along with an outpouring of emotional support from friends, family and strangers, more than $25,000 has been raised to assist the couple with medical debts that won't be covered by the couple's insurance.
"We feel very privileged and special that so many people reached out to us during this," said Mrs. Cochran.
"We're at the point now where we're telling people it's enough. We can't accept any more donations."
The money came from several community fund-raisers, including a Jan. 23 pancake breakfast at a local fire hall attended by about 600, and a March 6 aerobics event at a Columbia village center.
The breakfast was organized by the Cochrans' neighbors, Russ and Colette Lease; the aerobics event was conducted by J. C. Bodyworks, an aerobics group Mrs. Cochran frequents.
The Kings Contrivance residents have also received donations from Columbia businesses, including stores in the Dobbin Shopping Center and United Marshal Arts, a chain of self-defense instruction schools.
The couple also have received many donations sent by strangers through the mail.
The signs of support received through the mail have ranged from a Randy Milligan baseball card -- autographed by the Oriole slugger and sent to Ross by a local youth -- to more than $200 sent to the Cochrans from a young man who works part-time at a bank.
"It's been things like the baseball card and donations from people who probably don't have much money themselves that really have touched us," said Mr. Cochran.
The donations will cover the outstanding medical bills that weren't covered by insurance, the couple said.
They even expect to have a little money left over once all the bills are paid.
They plan to donate the money to people they met at Johns Hopkins Hospital who have been hit hard financially by illnesses.
"This whole experience has renewed our faith in human nature," said Mr. Cochran, an engineer.
"It seems a lot of times all you hear about is the bad people are capable of. What we've found is that people really do want to help. Not just friends, but strangers, too. It's been remarkable really."
Earlier this month, the Cochrans were greeted with encouraging news about their son's medical condition; a computerized axial tomography, or CAT scan, showed that the bone marrow transplant had sent the child's cancer into remission.
That's bright news not only for Ross and his parents, but the couple's daughter, 2-year-old Kristin. She's been missing her brother's company as a pal and playmate, said Mrs. Cochran.
In January, Ross underwent the transplant, a procedure which has proved successful at eliminating cancerous cells.
Before the surgery, the child endured chemotherapy and full-body radiation treatments.
"Ross is doing very well," said Mr. Cochran. "The CAT scan was the first big hurdle. The results were a big relief."
The bone marrow transplant cost about $150,000.
Radiation treatments left Ross particularly vulnerable to infections, and that resulted in keeping him in isolation for a period at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Hospital stays cost about $1,000 per day, said Mrs. Cochran.
The couple's income was also affected by the child's illness. Mrs. Cochran took a leave of absence from her part-time job as TC nurse to care for Ross.