ZIONSVILLE, Ind. -- Nine-year-old Aiden Blackburn and his family make the long journey from their Whitestown home to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, at least once a month.
But Aiden's mother, Ashley Dickinson, said it will soon include three- to six-month stays. It can be a lonely road for a child.
"I like to play with the other kids in Mayo because I made some friends," said Aiden. "It makes me forget about my old friends, and I mean new friends are better than no friends at all."
Aiden's battling a number of health issues including narcolepsy, an issue with his bladder, permanent nerve damage and stage four kidney disease. Stage five kidney disease includes dialysis.
"We cannot do a transplant until we get the bladder issue squared away, which that is in the books," his mother said.
Aiden has suffered medical issues since he was born.
"When he was born, when he was 10 days old, that's when they found out that it was only a quarter of the function that it needed," Ashley said of her son's condition.
The monthly trips to Mayo Clinic add up. The family said it can cost between $16 and $25 per day for them just to park. Fortunately, they do have insurance and Ashley's husband, Ashton, has a job locally and even works in Minnesota while they are there.
"We still have co-pays and we still have expenses like the travel, the lodging, there's a Ronald McDonald House that's under construction so we haven't been able to yet bet there," Ashley said.
To help cover the costs, Aiden's family invites the community to a benefit this Saturday, Aug. 24 at the American Legion in Zionsville from 4 p.m. until 8 p.m. It includes a spaghetti dinner, auction and raffle. Aiden said the community's support means just as much as donations.
"To see everybody happy and smiling, it just makes me happy."
Ashley said they have been gone for a month, and Aiden misses his brothers and sisters and friends so much. Without extra funds, the family can't afford to bring the other children to visit Aiden during their Minnesota stays.
"To have people to cheer him on, that would be so awesome," Ashley said of her hope for Saturday's benefit. "It would do so much for him."
If someone is interested in donating a kidney, you can find more information at www.mayoclinic.org.