Community support gives family hope

By Susan Gamble, Brantford Expositor

PARIS- The big community room at the Brant Sports Complex was bustling with bidders eyeing more than 120 silent auction opportunities Saturday night but young Elle Morton only had eyes for the hockey game playing out on the ice below.

"She loves it," says her referee dad, Kevin Morton.

"Her dream is to play hockey one day," adds mom Lory Morton.

Elle has Rett Syndrome, a rare neurodevelopmental disorder that can cause seizures, osteoporosis and the loss of language and hand use in young girls.

Ref4Rett is the fifth annual fundraiser the Mortons have hosted and they are thrilled to see the money is starting to make a difference.

"Everything we raise goes to the Ontario Rett Syndrome Association and they award research grants. We know that $50,000 raised by Ref4Rett was given to researchers in 2014 and they just published a paper."

The researchers were able to establish that the type of DNA in a Rett Syndrome sufferer connects to the severity of the disorder - a new piece of information in the ongoing search for prevention or a cure.

Meanwhile, nine-year-old Elle is thriving, with her seizures under control and her mind actively engaged in learning. But her parents know Elle's world, and theirs, can change in an instant.

"As well as Elle's doing today we know that she could suddenly seizure and be paralyzed and not be able to walk," says her mother. "That's what drives us to do this."

The event featured games between the Paris Mounties Alumni and the Ayr Sentinel Alumni, plus a game between the regular Mounties and Sentinels.

Along with the dozens of gift baskets and tickets to everything from sports events to theatre and ballet, there were 47 jerseys worn during the games that were auctioned off.

At the end of the night, more than 500 people participated in the event and another $28,000 was raised for the cause.

Walter Gretzky surprised the family by turning up and spending the evening signing autographs and posing for photos.

And the Mortons said Elle was thrilled to visit the Mounties dressing room before their game, get a photo with the team and kiss the goalie, Davis McLean.

The couple is still mightily impressed by the support offered by their small town.

"We've only lived in Paris for five years," says Lory Morton, "and to see the community come out - neighbours, teachers and people from Elle's past - well, if there's ever a moment that I feel hope, it's when I walk into the room on this night and look around."

Fundraising for Ref4Rett continues next weekend. Feb. 5 is a charity breakfast at Knights of Columbus, 12 Catherine Ave., from 9 a.m. to noon.