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Craig family needs financial help

Meagan Craig was conscious and off a ventilator late last week, but she remained in serious condition at St. Louis Children's Hospital.

The 11-year-old Palm Harbor girl was still on dialysis, according to her grandfather, Richard Thomas of Palm Harbor. The family had planned to transfer her to All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg last week, he said, but doctors recently discovered a bacterial infection in Meagan's stomach that may delay the family's return to Tampa Bay.

Meagan was the first infant in the world to get a double lung transplant because of a rare genetic disorder. She was born with surfactant protein B deficiency, which causes the lungs to fail.

Meagan was only a few months old when she received her first lung transplant in February 1994. She received a second transplant four months later when a bacterial infection ravaged her first set of new lungs.

A month later, another Pinellas County baby was born with the same rare disorder. Autumn Bailey of Pinellas Park also received a lung transplant at St. Louis Children's Hospital. She and Meagan were best friends until Autumn's death from transplant complications in January 2003.

The cause of Meagan's current hospitalization is a condition known as bronchiolitis obilterans, a common late complication in lung transplant patients. The condition gradually destroys breathing tubes in the lungs and can be fatal.

Meagan, a fourth-grader at Cross Bayou Elementary School in Pinellas Park, arrived at St. Louis Children's Hospital with her parents the week before Thanksgiving. They thought it would be a 10-day stay.

But as her hospitalization has continued, the family's finances have been stressed. Meagan's mother, Diane Craig, works part time as a bookkeeper at a Clearwater law office. Her father, Mike Craig, is a construction contractor. Both have stopped working in order to stay with Meagan in the hospital.

Insurance covers most of Meagan's medical care, but the family's home, utilities, auto and insurance payments run about $3,500 a month. With the help of Mrs. Craig's boss, attorney Joseph J. Sorota Jr., a trust fund has been established to help pay the Craig family's bills until they go back to work.

Donations can be mailed to the Meagan Lynn Craig Family Trust, c/o Peoples Bank, 32845 U.S. 19 N, Palm Harbor, FL 34684 or can be dropped off at any branch of Peoples Bank.

Quilting seminar coincides with exhibit

OLDSMAR _ A dozen or so quilts from Rainbows End quilt shop in Dunedin are hanging by clothespins in City Hall through February.

"Gorgeous work!" said Chris Steiner, the city's arts coordinator. "We've had a lot of interest."

Michelle Facsima of Palm Harbor, part owner of the Rainbows End quilting shop of Dunedin, organized the show. She will give a free seminar on quilting at 10 a.m. Feb. 4 at the Cultural Arts Centre, 402 St. Petersburg Drive E. After the seminar, Facsima will lead the group on a tour of the show.

"She wants to get the word out on contemporary quilting," Steiner said of Facsima. "She's so enthusiastic."

Facsima said the Oldsmar show has some traditional patterns that go back to early America. Others are contemporary.

"Quilting has really evolved so that it's not just something that Grandma does," she said. "And it's not just quilts for beds."

Today, she said, quilts are wall hangings, table runners, place mats, clothing, purses and belts. And some quilts are art, paintings of fabric and thread.

The quilts on exhibit in Oldsmar are not labeled by artist, but they are the work of five women: Facsima, Kathy Musser, Yvonne Smith, Ruth Gross and Betty Dick. And Marian Pingor and the late Amanda Miller quilted the works the other five had pieced together.

For information on buying the quilts, call Facsima at (727) 733-8572. For the Feb. 4 seminar, call Steiner at (813) 749-1253.

Still time to register for Little League

PALM HARBOR _ Palm Harbor Little League has extended registration for its 2005 spring season through Saturday.

To register online, go to www.phll.net and follow the "Register Now" instructions.

Mail-in registration forms can be downloaded from the Web site or picked up at the Palm Harbor Community Activities Center, 1500 16th St. They must be postmarked by Saturday.

In-person registration is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at the Palm Harbor Community Activities Center.

Registration fees are $110 for boys and girls ages 5 to 7, and $150 for boys and girls ages 8 to 16. Players must live within the Little League's boundaries, which are on www.phll.net. Parents registering children for the first time must provide copies of their drivers' licenses, the child's birth certificate and a utility bill that proves where the family lives.

For information, e-mail infophll.net or call (727) 785-3785.

Get in good shape with help of YMCA

If your New Year's resolution includes more exercise, the YMCA of the Suncoast has two branches available for North Pinellas residents.

The YMCA of the Suncoast is a charitable, nonprofit organization with branches in Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando counties. Membership rates vary according to age and family structure. Scholarship assistance is available for those who need it. One of the group's mantras is "The YMCA doesn't turn anyone away due to inability to pay."

The initial fee to join the North Pinellas Branch, 4550 Village Center Drive, varies from $50 for youth and young adults to $100 for families. Monthly membership rates vary from $30 for youth and young adults to $62 for families. Call (727) 772-9622.

Residents of the Palm Harbor Fire District get $25 off the initial fee to join the YMCA of the Suncoast Greater Palm Harbor Branch, 1600 16th St. Call (727) 451-7220. Monthly membership rates range from $30 for a youth or young adult to $62 for a family. Call (727) 451-7220.

In East Lake, the YMCA of North Pinellas is offering the following programs soon:

Rookie tennis for boys and girls ages 3 to 5 on Tuesdays from Tuesday through Feb. 1. Beginners meet from 4 to 4:45 p.m. Others with some experience and instructors' permission meet from 5 to 5:45 p.m. The cost is $45 for facility members, $65 for program members.

Five weeks of tennis classes for older children, teens and adults start in the first and second weeks of January. Times vary by age group. The cost for children 5 to 6 is $23 for five 30-minute lessons for facility members, $35 for program members. For other age groups, five one-hour lessons cost $45 for facility members, $65 for program members.

Call (727) 772-9622.

Tutors needed to teach English

PALM HARBOR _ The Palm Harbor Literacy Council seeks volunteers to help adults, many of them recent arrivals to the United States, to better read, write and speak English.

The literacy council provides free one-on-one tutoring to new residents, many of them foreign-born college graduates now working in the United States.

The council has 103 certified tutors but needs 50 more volunteers to work with students on its waiting list.

For information or to volunteer, call (727) 784-3332, ext. 211.

Aquatic therapy classes offered

PALM HARBOR _ Physiotherapy Associates, 35111 U.S. 19 N, Suite 100, offers aquatic classes for those with arthritis, fibromyalgia, osteoporosis and chronic back and neck pain.

The classes, approved by the Arthritis Foundation, are also appropriate for those with diabetes, post-rehabilitation needs or weight-loss requirements.

Classes are conducted as part of a nonprofit program. They take place in a heated indoor pool and offer a range of motion, flexibility and strengthening exercises.

Participants do not need to know how to swim.

To register or for information on fees and schedules, call (727) 772-6772 or (727) 210-0760.

JUNIOR BIRDMEN: Grant Saso, 13, of Orlando, left, launches the remote-controlled airplaned of his cousin Robert Coggin, 10, of East Lake, who mans the controls on the grounds of the Lutheran Church of the Resurrection. Coggin said the controls mainly turned the plane left or right.

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