Andrew Miller has suffered from abnormal heart rhythms since birth, and his family so far has spent about $600,000 of a $1 million insurance policy on medical care for the 2 1/2 -year-old.
Last year, the Ellicott City boy received a heart transplant at the University of Maryland Medical Center's Pediatric intensive care unit.
So it was understandable when his mother opened the mailbox five months ago, found a $12,000 bill for doctors' services and transportation, and was surprised.
"I didn't know what it was for," said Judi Miller.
The bill was for treatment and transportation after Andrew went into cardiac arrest two years ago at the Medical University of South Carolina, where he was being treated by a heart specialist.
Doctors spent 25 minutes resuscitating the Ellicott City boy before rushing him by Lear jet to the University of Maryland Medical Center, 600 miles away.
Although insurance covered most of the costs, the Millers are responsible for the $12,000 balance.
To ease the financial strain on the family, neighbors Peggy Miller and Judie Wallace have organized a benefit pancake breakfast that they hope will raise more than $30,000. Peggy Miller is not related to Andrew or his parents.
"They do have coverage, but there are gaps in their coverage and that's where we come in," Mrs. Wallace said.
The Andrew R. Miller Benefit Pancake Breakfast will be Saturday, June 5 at the Clarksville Volunteer Firehouse from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The hall is at 12335 Clarksville Pike, the intersection of routes 108 and 32. The menu will feature pancakes, sausage, coffee, orange juice, tea, and milk.
"Wherever Andrew is concerned, you'll find people bending over backward," Peggy Miller said.
Last September, she and Mrs. Wallace organized a homecoming party for the toddler after a five-month stay in the hospital. But after less than a day at home, he was back in the hospital. He was finally released Oct. 23.
Now the boy takes eight medications twice a day to fight his body's resistance to the new heart.
Judi Miller says it's difficult to distinguish their child from any other.
"He's your normal 2-year-old child," said Mrs. Miller, a Baltimore architect. "He has his good days, his bad days, temper tantrums."
Andrew loves running, sliding, and Barney, the singing purple dinosaur, his mother said. One recent evening, Andrew's father Rob, a heavy-equipment mechanic, fed him mouthfuls of macaroni and cheese while the toddler played with a toy helicopter on the kitchen floor.
The women said they decided to organize a benefit pancake breakfast after hearing about Russ and Colette Lease, two Columbia residents who raised about $25,000 for a 3-year-old Columbia boy suffering from cancer.
"We drove there and talked for hours and hours and got ideas," Mrs. Wallace said.
The three women have been organizing the breakfast since March. They've already distributed about $8,000 in raffle tickets.
They have received food and supply donations from area businesses, but they still need pancake mix, coffee, syrup, and butter pats.
"It's trickling in," Judi Miller said. Party-Party-Party, Valu Food, Giant, the Highland Jaycees, Pizza Hut and Roy Rogers have donated groceries, supplies, and funds for the breakfast.
About 1,000 people are expected to attend. The Clarksville fire department's ladies auxiliary has volunteered to cook.
Tickets are $5 for those 12 years and older; $2.50 for children between 5 and 12. Children under 5 are admitted free.
Tickets are available at Buster Brown Shoes at The Mall in Columbia. They may also be purchased at the door and by calling Peggy Miller at 750-0693 or Judie Wallace at 750-7262.
Raffle tickets are $1 and will be drawn at noon. The first prize is $300 cash; second prize is a $50 gift certificate from the Hecht Co.; and the third prize is a $20 gift certificate from Calico's Children's Clothes.
Those wishing to contribute may send a check made out to the Andrew R. Miller Heart Fund, P.O. Box 1806, Ellicott City, MD 21041-1806.
"I knew Andrew when he was fighting for his life," Peggy Miller said. "And now it's time for Judie and I to fight for his life."