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Article from Sun Sentinel News Paper

Vicki Borken, who suffers from lymphedema, must cope with a leg that is swollen to five times its normal size.

She plays with her daughter Brichele, whom she calls Breezy.

Hollywood mother's plight touches readers' hearts

By Noreen Marcus
Staff Writer
December 19 2002

A serious disease constricts Vicki Borken's world, but she has learned it is a lot bigger than she thought.

Sun-Sentinel Children's Fund readers and listeners responded warmly to the Dec. 6 story of the 41-year-old mother who spends most of her time on the couch of her Hollywood mobile home, stilled by a lymph condition that swells and disfigures her left leg. They have promised her adored 4-year-old Brichele, called "Breezy," toys and clothes for Christmas, and medical professionals have come forward to try to alleviate the condition, called Milroy's disease, that has tormented Borken since childhood.

"The people of the South Florida area have responded wonderfully," Borken said Wednesday. They have responded well, also, to the agency that gave Borken emergency financial assistance, Jewish Family Service.

"The calls have doubled," said Barbara Bailin, the agency's coordinator of information and referral. "The story really touched people, some in a personal way or some because of health problems, but mostly because they felt badly for her and wanted to help."

Still, midway into the Children's Fund editorial and broadcast campaign that began Thanksgiving Day and continues into January, donations are lagging to meet the goal of $600,000 that will be matched 50 cents on the dollar by the McCormick Tribune Foundation. As of Wednesday they stood at just over $200,000.

At this point it is possible some nonprofits will not receive the grants they desperately require from the foundation in 2003, said Mary Riedel, community affairs manager for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

"We're experiencing what charities and nonprofits have been living with all year," said Riedel. "I'm very concerned that we're not going to be able to meet the needs of our agencies and the kids that depend on our support."

The Sun-Sentinel coordinates its holiday editorial campaign, now in its 15th year, with media partners WBZL-Ch. 39, WIOD (AM 610) radio, AT&T Broadband/Comcast; WFOR-Ch. 4 and Neighbors for Neighbors; WPTZ-Ch. 5 and the Clear Channel radio stations. Last year, 4,500 readers and listeners responded by contributing a record $585,000 ($800,000 with the foundation match), which helped meet agency needs throughout the year.

The holiday campaign, now in its 15th year, resonates over time and place. Sharon Geltner, public relations director for Jewish Family & Children's Services in West Palm Beach, recalled the response to a story than ran four years ago.

The article featured a woman who wanted to divorce her jailed husband but couldn't afford to do so because his legal bills had left her penniless. After the story appeared, a Boca Raton lawyer volunteered his services, Geltner said. Others in the community sent checks to help the single mother.

"Do I think those articles work? Yes, they have a tremendous impact," she said.

Jewish Family Service, the Plantation-based agency that is Borken's benefactor, has asked for about $25,000 to help pay for emergency financial assistance and crisis intervention for families in 2003, said Executive Director Sandra Sundel.

"It's really a hidden problem in Broward, because there's a whole large number of people who are just barely doing OK," she said. "If one thing happens -- it could be an illness of a family member, could be a car that needs repair, could be anything -- then everything falls apart."

That's where Jewish Family Service steps in for everyone, regardless of religion, Sundel stressed, saying, "We help people because we're Jewish, not because they're Jewish."

Borken, now looking forward to a bountiful Christmas for herself and her daughter, is grateful to the agency, she said. "They've given me this exposure, and they've been really helpful to me in the past, and they're very glad to have done this for me."

Staff Writer Beth P. Krane contributed to this report.

Noreen Marcus can be reached at or 954-356-4519.
Copyright © 2002, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

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