At first glance, you'd never guess Jarrod Danka is anything other than a typical boy. His mom says the 11-year-old is non-stop most of the time and he's pretty excited about the upcoming Jarrod Danka Transplant Day, to be held at the Skywheel in Myrtle Beach next month.
"Awesome, yeah!" Jarrod exclaimed about his special day to come. "Because I get all kinds of free stuff, video games and stuff like that."
But all is not well in Jarrod's life. His kidneys are failing. He already had one kidney transplant a few years ago and now needs another.
The costs will be staggering for his family and insurance won't cover all of it. That's where the North Strand Optimist Club and the Little River Rotary Club came in, putting on a fish fry fundraiser Wednesday for Jarrod's family.
"It takes a lot of money prepping before you do the surgery and that's where this comes from. What insurance doesn't (cover)," said Jesse Medlock, an Optimist club member who organized the fish fry.
Medlock said his initial goal was to raise $10,000 for the Danka family. So far, the groups have raised nearly $18,000. That may seem like a lot, but in fact the family will need much, much more.
"We anticipate until Jarrod gets to be about 18, somewhere close to a million dollars, between transplants, hospital stays and prescriptions," said Tracey Danka, Jarrod's mother.
What inspires Jarrod's family, those at Wednesday's fundraiser and anyone else who hears his story is the remarkable generosity of Linda Dougherty.
She belongs to the Waterbrook Community Church in North Myrtle Beach, where the Dankas are also members, but she barely knew the family before deciding to donate one of her kidneys to keep Jarrod alive.
"I just knew that this was in God's plan," Dougherty said. "It's a great privilege to be a part of this and be able to do this for someone else. It's a good way to just pay it forward and just do what you can for those around you."
Jarrod's mother is overwhelmed by Dougherty's gift of life. "It so touches our heart. It's amazing. It's really, really amazing," said Tracey Danka.
Donations for the Danka family can be sent to:
Horry County State Bank
c/o Jarrod Danka Fund
PO Box 218
Loris, SC 29569
Donations will also be accepted at any Horry County State Bank branch.