The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of blessings for a Belleview teenager in desperate need of a kidney.
It all started with a July 30 fundraiser at Cody’s Original Roadhouse, at 8761 SE 165th Mulberry Ln., to help pay for 18-year-old Cole Tumey’s expenses as he travels back and forth to UF Health Shands Hospital for dialysis three times a week.
Tumey, a recent graduate of Village View Christian Academy, suffered from end stage renal disease and must undergo dialysis because the kidney his mother, Leona Yawn, donated to him when he was two years old failed and had to be removed earlier this year.
The damaged organ was causing numerous other health issues for Tumey, including extremely high blood pressure. And to make matters worse, a transplant from donor Amber Ferguson, of Lake City, planned earlier this year had to be called off at the last minute because Tumey’s blood antigens changed from negative to positive, meaning she was no longer a match.
Yawn said Tumey, who relies strongly on his faith in God and is a member of New Identity Community Church in Belleview, was amazed at the turnout for the Cody’s fundraiser.
“There were over 300 students, strangers, old friends, baseball coaches and teachers. He felt the love,” said Yawn, who is a nurse at The Villages VA Outpatient Clinic.
Yawn said 58 baskets donated by various community members and local businesses were raffled off and the winnings from a successful 50/50 raffle were donated back to “Team Cole.”
“T-shirts, decals and arm bands were sold to spread the word,” she said. “And many donor packets were taken by people willing to be tested.”
That successful fundraiser also generated an amazing opportunity – an all-expenses-paid trip Aug. 9-11 for Tumey, Leona and his father, Chris, to the Pro Watercross National Championship jet ski competition in Lake Charles, La. It came compliments of Jim and Palmira Bennett, who own Bennett Construction in Ocala.
Jim Bennett qualified for the championships and he put Tumey’s message on his equipment hauler so those traveling along the various roadways on the journey to Louisiana could learn about his need for a kidney. And before long, several others in the jet ski racing community – Pro Watercross, Dean’s Team, Tattoo Rich Racing, Forever Hooked, BMS Racing, Broward Motorsports, Waters Edge Photography and Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana Convention & Visitors Bureau Sales Director Eric Zarter – had joined the effort to make the weekend special for Tumey while Leona and Chris had the opportunity to pass out donor packets to the large crowd in attendance at the competition.
“The event hosted racers from all over the country and there was a great turnout of fans and sportsmen,” Yawn said. “Cole was asked to say the opening prayer and we had a tent with T-shirts and decals for sale, along with donor packets for those considering to be checked for a kidney donation to him.”
Yawn said it also was special to see Bennett and so many others supporting Team Cole in so many ways.
“They all rallied in honor of Cole wearing Team Cole T-shirts and spreading the word on social media,” she said. “We are so grateful to those who support us in this journey.”
Yawn added that it’s hard to put into words what both events meant to her family.
“The whole idea is to raise awareness for Cole needing a kidney. That’s the goal,” she said. “All of the other things – the new friendships, the love, the emotional support, the financial contributors – those are the blessings that came out of it. We really are overwhelmed with gratitude and the outpouring of love we’ve experienced during this journey.”
Those wishing to learn more about Tumey can visit the Team Cole Facebook page by clicking HERE. His GoFundMe page to raise money for the transplant can be accessed by clicking HERE. And anyone with blood type B or O that’s interested in learning more about being screened as potential donors can text Yawn at (352) 598-9260 with a name and address and she’ll send out a packet.