Community coming to aid of lymphoma patient

Elisabeth Johnston

The Waterloo community is pulling together to help a local teen in need by hosting a barbecue benefit Friday.

Elisabeth Johnston, a 17-year-old from Red Bud, has been battling a rare form of lymphoma since October 2012.

According to the event flier, Primary Central Nervous System Lymphoma occurs roughly 15 times a year in the U.S. to children under 19.

To help raise money for the medical bills, family friend Mark Hoggard coordinated a “Hope For Elisabeth” barbecue benefit, which will take place this Friday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Rural King parking lot in Waterloo.

“The family is in dire need and could really use the help and support,” Hoggard said. “(Elisabeth’s) medical bills are crazy.”

Hoggard said the bills are around $1,000 per week, and insurance just does not cover it.

“It’s been tough for the family,” Hoggard said. “The only way to do this is to reach out to the surrounding communities.”

Hoggard is planning on a second barbecue to be held Aug. 16 in Red Bud, but the location is yet to be determined.

Friday’s barbecue will include chicken, burgers and hot dogs, along with sides.

Baked goods, T-shirts and beverages will also be sold.

Supporters of the Johnston family have been posting fliers and reaching out to the community on Facebook, which Hoggard said has been extremely helpful.

“We’re really trying to make the community aware, because these are good people,” he said.

Tom Johnston, Elisabeth’s father, said the community support for Elisabeth and his family has been incredible.

He said Hoggard and his sisters have been the driving force for Friday’s barbecue and are already hard at work trying to figure out next week’s Red Bud benefit.

“I never thought we’d get the kind of support we have,” Johnston said. “(Hoggard and his sisters) have really organized all of this.”

Johnston said fundraising began with T-shirt sales, but has since grown to events like this barbecue, which he hopes is a huge success.

“Facebook has turned out to be a wonderful tool to message things en masse quickly,” he said. “You can rally the troops that way.”

Johnston said he has been laid off work a few times, but when the family found out about Elisabeth’s lymphoma, they knew they had to do everything they could to help her.

“You have to do whatever you can to get the care your daughter needs,” he said. “We’re taking it all one day at a time, but it really is all about helping out.”

Elisabeth’s form of lymphoma has come with many complications, and because there is very little, if any, clinical data on it, Johnston said the resulting illnesses are also rare and unpredictable.

Elisabeth is currently back in the hospital with one of these resulting illnesses: a fungal infection.

“There are so many unknowns and ups and downs that make it so difficult,” he said.

Johnston said every time his family worries about how a cost is going to be covered, somehow it just works.

“This is literally blind faith,” he said. “You just have to roll with the punches and do the absolute best you can.”

Those interested in helping can pre-order their food at, or call 314-635-8878.

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