With his sandy hair, freckles and bright smile, Aaron Booher is for many people the teen-age boy next door - right down to the braces on his teeth.
But Aaron is at the center of a fight against time - a fight he, his family and friends want to win.
His name is on a list for a double-lung transplant, a procedure he needs after developing a drug-resistant infection from a type of Pseudomonas bacteria in August.
Aaron, 14, a seventh-grader at St. Mary on the Hill Catholic School, is no stranger to hospitals. Diagnosed with cystic fibrosis when he was two-months old, he has required repeated surgeries to manage the disease.
Cystic fibrosis or CF is a genetic disorder that causes secretions of thick mucus that plug body organs, such as the liver, lungs and pancreas.
Without the transplant, doctors say Aaron has 18 to 24 months to live.
Supporters have raised about $20,000 to cover his transplant expenses. Their goal is $100,000.
With the help of a national nonprofit agency, the Bloomington, Ind.-based Children's Organ Transplant Association, Augusta organizers will hold several fund-raisers.
The way Augustans have rallied around his son has been a great encouragement to the family, said Army Sgt. 1st Class Danny Booher, Aaron's father and a telecommunications chief at Fort Gordon.
There are several hundred cannisters throughout the Augusta-area asking for contributions. Pupils at St. Mary on the Hill Catholic School recently went caroling and collected donations for Aaron.
Dr. Tom Jackson, a physician in Augusta, will fly Aaron, his father and his stepmother, Sharelle Booher, to Shands Medical Center in Gainsville, Fla., for preliminary transplant work-ups this month.
The trip will be the first from the Augusta chapter of Angel Flight, a volunteer pilot association.
In December, Aaron visited Shands, a center that has a high success rate in pediatric lung transplants. Officials there are confident he will make a speedy recovery once he has his surgery, said Tish Wynne, COTA for Aaron campaign coordinator.
Aaron has had to make some accommodations for his disease.
Doctors cautioned the 4-foot, 6-inch teen to slow down to maintain his weight, which is about 60 pounds. His lungs burn up so many calories he needs a feeding supplement piped into his stomach while he sleeps at night.
"My body is so used to being sick that I don't recognize it," Aaron said.
An A/B honor roll student, he loves to sketch and enjoys chess, a game he learned from a therapist.
He likes riding his motor scooter and playing street hockey in his Goshen Plantation neighborhood. An avid soccer player, he played for the Jaguars, a YMCA team, with many schoolmates from St. Mary for several years.
Members of the Jaguars changed their minds about retiring the team last year after Aaron developed the lung infection. Instead, they've ordered uniforms and will do some fund-raising activities as a team to help Aaron, said Mrs. Wynne, one of the soccer moms.
The reconstituted Jaguars' slogan is "Together in prayer...miracles happen."
Donations can be made at any branch of First Union National Bank or mailed to COTA, 2501 COTA Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403. Make checks payable to "COTA for Aaron" and include the account number 3000025434108 in the memo space. For more information about COTA for Aaron, call 790-8630.
Supporters can participate in the following fund-raisers:
What: Dinner from Carrabba's Italian Grill
Where: St. Mary on the Hill Catholic Church, 1420 Monte Sano Ave., Augusta
When: 6 p.m. Feb. 10
Cost: $5 for adults, $3.50 for ages 11 and younger and $20 per family
Where: Bobby Jones Ford, 3480 Wrightsboro Road, Augusta
When: 1 to 9 p.m. Feb. 18 and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays
Cost: donors can make donations at the dealership or call in pledges with a Visa or a MasterCard
Phone: (800) 366-2682
Reach Virginia Norton at (706) 823-3336.