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Sawnee Elementarys family day benefits baby with tumor

WEST FORSYTH — Most 11-week-olds get to begin exploring and learning their new home, but Colton Norrell had to return to the hospital after being diagnosed with a brain tumor.

Colton, now 6 months old, has since gone through several rounds of chemotherapy, has several stunts in his brain and has had to have fluid drained from his head nearly every other month.

His parents, Leana and Christopher Norrell, have been at the hospital with their only child every day since his diagnosis June 15. Pictures cover the walls of the hospital room Leana Norrell said she has made her home.

“We are here the whole time. Maybe every couple of days one of us goes out to get some air and bring back something to eat,” Leana Norrell said.

Their friends are organizing a fundraiser to help the family pay for medical bills that are piling up on top of regular house bills.

The Cruzin for Colton Norrell Benefit will take place from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday at Sawnee Elementary, with 100 percent of proceeds going directly to the family.

Kicking off the day of food and community fun is the Mountain Cruzin at 9 a.m., a guided tour through the north Georgia mountains that starts at the school. Entry for the tour is $50.

The rest of the festivities start at noon, with an entry fee of each person’s choice.

The west Forsyth school will play host to the fundraiser, with raffles and a silent auction at 4 p.m., a cake auction every hour, barbecue for dine-in or take out served from noon-6 p.m. and a concert in the cafeteria that starts at 7 p.m.

“Our first cousin, Amanda Elzey, wanted to do a benefit for us to help with hospital costs since I have not been working and my husband only on and off,” Norrell said. “Kimberly McBrayer has been right there with Amanda.”

McBrayer, her husband and Christopher Norrell graduated from Forsyth Central High School together in 1999.

“I have a 12-year-old and a 5-year-old, and they’re healthy, but you don’t know until something happens this close to home how blessed you are. It’s not fair,” McBrayer said.

The growth in Colton’s brain was diagnosed as a teratoma, which is a tumor with tissue or organ components and can contain hair, teeth and bone.

“He wasn’t quite big enough, but on Sept. 10 he went into surgery to remove some of the tumor,” Leana Norrell said. “They didn’t think he would make it. After a 10-hour surgery, they got about 75 percent of it out. It was about a pound. The size of a large grapefruit.”

Colton’s fight is not over.

There is still about 25 percent of the tumor left on his brain stem, which doctors cannot take out yet because of the dangers of touching the stem.

Miracles can happen, Norrell said. The tumor has since changed to non-malignant. At least four rounds of chemo have worked, so doctors want to do two more to be safe.

“He’s proving all the doctors wrong. He’s making progress in things they didn’t think he would do. He’s really doing great.”

They may be able to take turns in going to Saturday’s fundraiser, though they will have to decide that day.

“We want to say thank you to everybody,” Norrell said. “We have a lot of support, and we are so grateful to have that.”

Raffle and barbecue tickets are available for pre-purchase at Lanier Tire and Wheel.

Donations and entries can be mailed to Cruzin for Colton, 5515 Hendrix Road, Cumming, GA 30040.

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