CATEGORY: Charities

AUTHOR: EILEEN

HED:A sister for Danielle

By Eileen Bailey

Daily Journal

Pat Hobson of Pontotoc knew she had to answer a plea from a terminally ill mother who was searching for a "big sister" for her teen-age daughter.

"I felt that I had to offer my help and that my family and I had a lot to offer her," Hobson said of her new 12-year-old "little sister," Danielle Bartley. "I think we have a lot to offer each other."

Hobson and Danielle, who attends Tupelo Middle School, were matched in October by the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program. The match was made after Danielle's mother, Gail Bartley, asked the nonprofit organization to find her daughter a match.

Big Brothers/Big Sisters is a nonprofit organization that matches well-screened adult volunteers with at-risk children from single-parent households.

Bartley suffers from sarcodiosis, a degenerative disease that affects the lungs, heart, eyes and nervous system. Bartley spends most of her day in bed and connected to oxygen.

In October, Bartley had to be hospitalized because her condition worsened. But doctors placed her on a drug that helped boost her system and allowed her to return home. Bartley is now able to leave her bed more often, and with the help of a portable oxygen tank she can even attend church.

Bartley said her disease causes an irregular heartbeat that can speed up or stop at any time. It is heart failure that will ultimately end her life.

An answered prayer

Bartley's mother, Jessica Slaughter, found out about the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program from neighbors and thought it was something her granddaughter needed. She and Bartley got together and contacted the agency.

Once word of Danielle's situation got out, the agency received more than 20 calls to apply for the program, said Tina Johnston, case worker for Big Brothers/Big Sisters.

Johnston said from the time Pat Hobson, an employee with State Farm Insurance, walked into the office they knew she was the one for Danielle. After undergoing an in-depth screening process, Hobson was chosen as the match.

"Due to the situation we wanted to match her as soon as possible," Johnston said.

Bartley couldn't be happier with the match.

"The match was perfect. It just clicked," Bartley said. "They have a solid foundation."

Hobson and Danielle still are getting to know each other but they are on their way to achieving an even closer bond, Bartley said.

The first outing between Hobson and Danielle was a dinner at Red Lobster. They also have gone to a bookstore and visited at Hobson's home.

Danielle, a shy teen who enjoys cooking and drawing - especially designing clothes -said she is looking forward to more activities.

"I think she's nice," Danielle said of Hobson. "We're going to see the Rug Rat movie."

Hobson said they've been planning and doing different activities they both like. Soon, they'll attend the wedding of one of Hobson's family members.

This will be Danielle's first time at a wedding and she said she's looking forward to going.

Slaughter said she also is pleased the match is going well.

"It's an excellent thing for Danielle. She is happy with Pat. I am at peace with the idea if something happened to both of us there is someone here for Danielle," Slaughter said. "We know she will take care of Danielle."

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