Rochester businesses are coming together to raise money for some of their own.
Eight-year-old Marcus Tolbert, the son of Jack Lester and Ashley Tolbert, has Surfactant C Deficiency, a genetic lung disorder that causes breathing problems.
After doctors recommended a lung transplant, Marcus’ family asked for help from the Children’s Organ Transplant Association. COTA, is a national 501(c)3 charity that organizes community fundraising efforts.
Organ transplants often cost hundreds of thousands of dollars at the outset, plus additional expenses annually. COTA’s campaign in Rochester will help Marcus’ family cover their medical bills.
Marcus is currently staying in the transitional ICU at Texas Children’s Hospital with his parents and siblings, said Jennifer Becker, the wife of Jack Lester.
Since Aug. 23, his family has raised nearly $20,000, or a quarter of the $80,000 goal to help offset transplant costs.
Impressive, considering that Marcus was first approved for a lung transplant on Wednesday, and will officially join the organ transplant waiting list on Sept. 26.
Becker, the owner of Bleu Duck Kitchen, said Rochester businesses have pitched in since fundraising efforts began.
“It’s amazing to see the amount of support in the community,” Becker said.
Forager Brewery, where Lester works, created a Thirsty Lungs IPA — the proceeds from each glass of which go to Marcus’ COTA fund.
In total, 10 area businesses have set out boxes to collect donations for Marcus.
Forager and Bleu Duck, naturally, as well as Pasquale’s, Optimal Movement, Front Porch Bar and Grill, Whistle Binkies Old World Pub, the Melting Pot, Queen City Coffee, Little Thistle, and Ye Old Butcher Shop have joined the fundraising efforts.
Additionally, all proceeds from Monday's sales at Front Porch Bar and Grill, located at 100 North Sheppard St., Kellogg, will go to the fund.
Pasquale’s has created a pizza in honor of Marcus, Becker added. A portion of those sales will be donated to the COTA fund. And JMEG Photography, based in Rochester, will sell small photo packages on Sept. 25 and 29 and send part of those proceeds to Marcus’ COTA fund.
There will also be a “family-inspired” brunch at the Castle Community on Oct. 6, Becker said.
There’s no hard deadline for donations, Becker said, but the first six months will be “pretty critical.”
COTA has pledged to contribute $2,500 to Marcus’ fund if his family raises $25,000 in that period, and $5,000 if they double that.
“Jack and I, and all of our family is so grateful for the support,” Becker said. “We just need to get this little boy a new set of lungs so he can have the life he deserves.
“We’ll keep going until we hit 80, and hopefully we’ll beat that.”