It’s hard to imagine that in the richest country in the world, even people who are lucky enough to have health insurance still have trouble paying for their treatments. Luckily, America is also a land of free enterprise, and some of its finest moments occur when those with plenty find an opportunity to help those less fortunate.
Such a moment will take place in Hoboken later this month when Re/Max Gold Coast, a local real estate firm, and Biggie’s, Hoboken’s legendary clam bar, team up to raise money for Ari-Anna Jimenez, a 4-year-old Hobokenite fighting a rare form of kidney cancer.
On Wednesday, Sept. 18, any Biggie’s customer can present a “Cashola” coupon that will ensure 10 percent of his or her bill is donated to Ari-Anna. And on the following Sunday, Sept. 22, Re/Max Gold Coast will host its annual shredding party, which this year will donate all of its proceeds to Ari-Anna’s medical expenses.
“All she does is smile, all the time.” – Marcelino Jimenez, Ari-Anna’s father
"I've always been proud of how our agents jump right in when given the opportunity to serve our local community, and when hearing of Ari-Anna's immense medical bills through our Re/Max family who has ties to her family, it was a no-brainer that we wanted to help," said Re/Max’s owner, Daniel Voehringer.
Ari-Anna’s struggle against cancer began in March, when she woke up in the middle of the night demanding to go to a hospital due to pain in her stomach. She’d previously been to several doctors to treat various minor problems, but none had deduced a connection to cancer.
The pain Ari-Anna felt that night turned out to be a minor rupture of a Wilms’ tumor, which affects only 300 to 500 Americans yearly, that was over twice the size of the kidney itself.
The 4-year-old was immediately admitted for a seven-hour surgery to remove the tumor. She made it through, although one of her kidneys had to be fully removed, along with a section of her artery and stomach. Her father, Marcelino, called it “a scary day.” The hard work was just beginning.
Since March, Ari-Anna has undergone multiple blood transfusions and receives chemotherapy every Tuesday. Despite the treatment, her father said that Ari-Anna is much braver than her parents.
“All she does is smile, all the time,” said Jimenez. “If it weren’t for that I think this would be very hard on us.”
The cost of surviving
Ari-Anna’s parents have health insurance, but defeating a Wilms’ tumor is an arduous and expensive process. Many of the more minor tests and procedures aren’t covered by insurance, and the family often elected to hear second opinions from doctors outside their network. It’s not a matter of vanity, said Jimenez, but of necessity.
“A lot of the treatments that we’ve gotten are relatively simple procedures,” he said. “But they’re not simple to pay for, but she needs them anyway.”
He explained that when the process began, the family was, understandably so, not focused on the cost of their daughter’s treatment, but whether it would work.
“We went for everything in the beginning, because we didn’t want to take the chance that there was something we could try that would make her better that we didn’t know about or decided not to get,” he said.
Asked about Re/Max’s offer to help cover his daughter’s medical costs, almost completely out of the blue, Jimenez said he was simply amazed.
“It’s incredible. People have friends and family who help them out when something goes wrong,” he said. “But for a private company to think about reaching out and helping someone like this is just very wonderful.”
A tradition of charity
This is hardly the first time Re/Max has gone out of its way to support a good cause. According to Karen DeJesus, one of the company’s agents, Re/Max has done work for the Children’s Miracle Network, the Susan G. Komen Foundation, Habitat for Humanity, and the American Cancer Society.
Re/Max does local work as well. In addition to candy drives and toy drives during Halloween and Christmas, agents volunteer at the Hoboken Shelter, serving lunch and dinner regularly, always arriving with a large donation of food.
“We try to do a fundraiser every year,” said DeJesus. “A friend of one of our agents mentioned Ari-Anna, and we thought it’d be a great idea to help her.”
The “Cashola” coupon for the Sept. 18 promotion at Biggie’s is available online at http://conta.cc/14ykinC. The shredding party will take place on Sept. 22, from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the parking lot located at 76-78 Hudson St. between Newark Street and Hudson Place.