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Friends of FishHawk rally to help neighbor

Neighbors are donating items and services to help recently hospitalized Brittany Mathers, who has neuromyelitis optica, and her family. They live in the FishHawk community.

Courtesy of Brittany Mathers

Neighbors are donating items and services to help recently hospitalized Brittany Mathers, who has neuromyelitis optica, and her family. They live in the FishHawk community.

LITHIA — FishHawk residents are rallying together to donate items and services to a local family whose daughter was diagnosed with a neurological disease that causes blindness.

Brittany Mathers, 21, was diagnosed less than a year ago with neuromyelitis optica, an incurable illness that caused her to lose her sight and is attacking her spinal cord.

When neighbor and family friend Kelly Glenn Rowjohn learned Mathers was recently hospitalized, she knew she had to do something to help.

"She is the most amazing young woman," Rowjohn said of Mathers. "She's absolutely beautiful. She's so outgoing and incredibly intelligent. Still to this minute, she just loves life. She's this amazing spirit."

Rowjohn, who founded Friends of FishHawk two years ago, said the community is known for its camaraderie and willingness to help when a neighbor is going through a tragedy.

Rowjohn reached out to others through social media and was flooded with responses. She put together a gift basket of donations and delivered it to Mathers in the hospital Tuesday. A signup was also created to help the family weekly with yard work and chores.

Rowjohn said Friends of FishHawk has helped more than 300 people in the past two years.

"With social media, people are becoming closer and you can hear things much more easily than before," Rowjohn said. "(The Mathers) are such an amazing family and they work together to take care of each other. But this is something they just can't tackle by themselves. … This community is always right there, no matter what."

Contact Caitlin Johnston at cjohnston@tampabay.com or (813) 661-2443. Follow @cljohnst.

Friends of FishHawk rally to help neighbor 07/02/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 2, 2014 7:16pm]
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