LACONIA — People she doesn’t even know have come together to help a 10-year-old girl replace the artificial eye she has used since she was tot.
Jennifer Miller, 10, was in a river in Laconia when she lost the prosthetic eye.
“I was swimming, and all the pressure going on it made it pop out,” Jennifer said last night in a phone interview.
The community came together quickly to raise the money to pay for a new artificial eye. It costs several thousand dollars.
“I think that’s very nice of them,” Jennifer told the New Hampshire Sunday News.
A Bedford ocular laboratory heard about the girl’s plight and donated its services to replace the prosthetic. The funds being raised will be placed in a trust to pay for the replacement prosthetic eyes that Jennifer will need as she grows, since her family doesn’t have insurance that will cover the cost.
It’s amazing, it’s just absolutely amazing that so many have turned out to help,” said Christine Jenot, a cousin who organized a fundraising supper Saturday night.
Jennifer lost her natural eye to a tumor when she was very young. The girl, her four siblings and her parents live in Laconia. Their only income is the Social Security benefits and military pension of the girl’s father, Wayne Miller, a U.S. Army veteran who is disabled because of a major stroke a couple of years ago.
Jennifer’s mother, Heidi, devotes her days to her husband’s care and has had serious medical problems recently that family members believe may be due to a contaminated water supply at the family residence.
Word of Jennifer’s situation spread fast, and help came quickly from all segments of the community, beginning soon after the prosthetic was swept away in the Winnipesaukee River.
Friends helped her search the water, and members of the Laconia police dive team turned out on their own time in an ultimately vain attempt to find the eye.
After it became apparent that the eye could not be found, the community came together to raise money to pay for a new artificial eye.
The spaghetti supper fundraiser was organized in a week’s time. Some who have offered help have virtually nothing to give. “I have had people calling that have no income at all and asking if they can donate one box of pasta,” Jenot said. “I am right on their doorstep to get it,”
Participants in today’s Timberland Ironman competition in nearby Gilford were encouraged to take their pre-game meal at the dinner Saturday night. Service organizations and residents have made cash donations to a trust fund that was established in a local bank.
And while the Elks Hall in Laconia was being set up for the spaghetti dinner, a father-daughter oculist team based in Bedford said they’d provide the artificial eye and donate services for fitting and care.
After hearing of the girl’s plight, Lindsey Kazanovicz-Boyle, a graduate of Manchester’s Trinity High School who works with her father, Peter Kazanovicz, at the Studley Ocular Laboratories, took to Facebook to volunteer their services.
“When I saw that she hadn’t been wearing a prosthetic eye for two weeks, I was really concerned because that has long-term effects,” Kazanovicz-Boyle said. “That’s what we do, and she obviously needs one.”
The girl will be in Bedford on Tuesday morning for a fitting at the Studley lab. They will also fit Jennifer for a cover, a place-holding device inserted into the eye socket to make sure that it does not close while a new prosthetic is fabricated.
“Without a prosthetic eye, she is wide open for infection,” Jenot said.
Since Jennifer is still a pre-teen, the artificial eye will have to be exchanged again as she matures.
“As she grows, she is going to need a total of five more eyes, so any money left in the trust fund will be used for that,” Jenot said.
Donations to the fund can be made care of the Jennifer Miller fund, Meredith Village Savings Bank, 393 S. Main St. Laconia 03046.
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Bill Smith may be reached at email@example.com.