House for a cure|412th member raffles home to help sick kids

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 25, 2009

Vicksburg native Branch Dildine and his wife are raffling their three-bedroom, two-bathroom home in Pelham, Ala., to aid the Mississippi Chapter of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

“I think it will be good for other kids like me,” said Serenity Lane, 8, of Brandon, who became the Dildine’s inspiration for the campaign after she survived acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). She was diagnosed four years ago and has been in remission for two.

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To buy a raffle ticket or to donate, visit or make checks payable to House for a Cure, 105 Honeybee Cove, Brandon, MS 39047.

“We knew the little girl, Serenity Lane, and her fight with leukemia when she was 4 years old. My wife knew her personally,” said Dildine, inspector general for the U.S. Army Reserve 412th Engineering Command, headquartered in Vicksburg.

With ALL, cancerous, immature white blood cells overproduce and take space from normal cells in bone marrow. The cells then spread to and damage other organs. Though fatal if not treated, 85 percent of ALL-afflicted children are cured.

A decline in donations for research pushed Dildine and his wife, Kelley, who works with the society, to sell raffle tickets for $100 each on their “House for a Cure” Web site, Dildine said.

About 200 tickets have been sold since the couple began last summer, he said.

They hope to sell 2,500 tickets by Christmas; $200,000 will pay for the house, and the rest will be donated, said Dildine.

“We wanted to raise $50,000 for the Leukemia Society and, at the same time, we wanted to keep the odds low for whoever bought a ticket to win the house,” he said.

Dildine, who now lives in Brandon, is also having more furniture delivered to the home.

He said seeing a child suffer really hurts him and makes him think, “What can I do to make a difference?”

Serenity said she would feel sad at night when she missed preschool “to take medicine.”

The third-grader said, “I felt sad because I couldn’t see my friends.”

While at Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children in Jackson, Serenity had “a suppressed immune system for a while, and she did lose her hair,” Kelley Dildine said. “Her response to the (chemotherapy) treatments were ideal.”

Serenity’s mom, Alissa Cerami of Brandon, said having the disease did not bother her daughter emotionally “because she didn’t know any different.”

“I think it affected the family more than her,” Cerami said.

Serenity took her last chemo pill on Sept. 14, 2007, and her mom said she underwent biopsies and spinal taps the following year.

“It is up to people like us to make a difference and support the funding for research,” said Kelley Dildine.

The couple has considered helping others who plan to raffle homes for leukemia research, she said.

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society has given more than $360 million to research since its inception in 1949.


Contact Tish Butts at tbutts@vicksburgpost,com