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May 4, 2017

Community fundraises for Amherst boy suffering from renal failure

UMass Kappa Phi Lambda request the donation for Bill Chu at UMass Campus Center on Thursday. Jong Man Kim/Daily Collegian)

UMass Kappa Phi Lambda request the donation for Bill Chu at UMass Campus Center on Thursday. (Jong Man Kim/Daily Collegian)

Bill Chu, a 10-year-old boy from Amherst, is in end stage renal failure and is in need of a kidney transplant. His kidney functions at about 10 percent, and fundraising efforts are underway to help raise money for transplant-related expenses.

The family was hesitant to reach out to the community when Chu was first diagnosed with IgA nephropathy in April, but the extensive medical costs burdening the family are leaving them with little options.

Karen Harrington, a neighbor and friend of the Chus has been coordinating some of the fundraising efforts to help Bill.

“The Chus have been in the Amherst community for 25 years, have lived in this neighborhood for most of that time and their four children have attended the Amherst public schools.  Everyone in the neighborhood thinks so highly of the Chu family and wanted to help when they found out that Bill needs a kidney transplant” said Harrington.

The Chus moved to Amherst from Vietnam in 1992. The Lutheran Church sponsored the Chu family’s move to the United States because Tu, Bill’s father, was sent to a labor camp because he had been sympathetic to American soldiers during the Vietnam War. Tu Chu is currently battling leukemia, leaving the family to deal with two serious medical issues at the same time.

Tu Chu now works full-time in auxiliary services at the University of Massachusetts and Han Chu, Bill’s mother, volunteers at the Amherst Survival Center.

Many fundraising efforts are planned, but the family and Harrington feel that they have almost reached the maximum number of people they can inform on their own.

The Newman Catholic Center at UMass, neighbors, the Amherst Survival Center, Wildwood Elementary School and other organizations have all been very generous with contributions as well, Harrington said.

The Lambda Phi Epsilon and Kappa Phi Lambda Greek chapters at UMass are trying to spread the word and raise money on campus for Bill’s transplant-related expenses. The fraternity and sorority teamed up on Thursday to raise money and collect birthday cards for Bill Chu, who turned 10 on Oct. 26.

Jarrett Chan, a sophomore political science major and philanthropy chair of Lambda Phi Epsilon said, “We’ve been trying to spread the word on campus, because this is a local community family and as an Asian interest slash promoting Asian awareness fraternity, we are trying to help this family. And the best way we could think of was just spreading the word on campus, just because of the shear amount of people that are here.”

“Ultimately, as part of the Asian-American community and Greek community here on campus, we hope to utilize our social network and connections to give back to our local community and this local family,” said Stephanie Choi, junior psychology, biochemistry and molecular biology major and philanthropist chair of Kappa Phi Lambda.

There are a lot of transplant related costs that the Chu’s need to cover that will cost an estimated $50,000. So far community efforts have raised close to $14,000.

Volunteers raising money in honor of Bill Chu’s transplant-related expenses are working with COTA, the Children’s Organ Transplant Association. COTA has set the family up with a donation site that enables money to be raised for kids like Bill. Unlike sites such as GoFundMe or Kickstarter, which take a percentage of money raised, 100 percent of the money donated in honor of Bill will be available to help the family with transplant-related expenses, according to Harrington. The link to the website is available on COTA’s “Donor pages” section.

“The doctors are recommending that all Bill’s care, including a pre-transplant surgery, the three times a week dialysis and the actual transplant surgery, be at Boston Children’s Hospital. We’re fortunate to live relatively close to one of the top hospitals in the world, but a two-hour drive, each way, multiple times a week is definitely stressful on the family” Harrington explained.

Tu Chu added that often times this drive takes much longer than two hours, as they are heading to and from Boston alongside commuters.

Bill Chu has big shoes to fill. His oldest sister Quynh is at Beth Israel Hospital doing her surgical residency, his brother Thach is getting his doctoral degree from Dartmouth College and his other brother An is a senior at Princeton University.

Bill Chu says he has no trouble keeping up with his school work, despite all of the traveling to Children’s. He likes the fourth grade, and his favorite subject is math. Outside of school, he still has time to do some of his favorite things, playing basketball and video games.

“We met with the principal of Bill’s school to talk about how Bill can keep up with his schoolwork this year when he is is absent for medical treatments. The principal remarked about what a strong and enthusiastic student Bill is and explained that the school will provide a tutor when Bill has to miss school for extended periods of time” said Harrington.

Hayley Johnson can be reached at hkjohnson@umass.edu.

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