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South Jersey community holding benefit for inspiring young child


I sat around the table this Thanksgiving amongst family and a few friends as much of the rest of you did.  We enjoyed laughs and stories filled with memories of the past.  We then went around the table and spoke about what we are all thankful for this year as we do every year.  I’m going to be honest; our “what we are thankful for” speeches are the same every year.  As it came to be my turn, I sat there for a moment.  I knew at that moment that I was thankful for having a certain family in my life.  A family whose spirit has truly enlightened me.  A family that has been through so much and is so strong.  I want to share their story, for it would be selfish of me to keep such heroism and example of family unity to myself.

Let me introduce you to, the Mulholland family.  This inspiring family consists of mother Michelle, father Reid, daughter Nicole and sons Petey and Cole. Dad is an American hero, serving ten years in the military and four separate terms in Iraq.  Cole, on the other hand, is already a hero at five years old. When you look at him, he looks like a normal fun-loving boy. On the inside, Cole is suffering. Cole was diagnosed with Ehlers Danlos and Amplified Musculoskeletal Pain Syndrome.  Both diseases aren’t household names to the general public. Both are also non-curable. Cole Mulholland

Ehlers Danlos is a connective tissue disorder which affects the whole body and blood vessels. Amplified musculoskeletal pain syndrome (AMPS) is a very painful medical condition and can cause pain anywhere in the body. In fact, children with AMPS can experience pain throughout most or all of their bodies. Cole has been in and out of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia since he has been born.  

Just last week, the Mulholland family found out that Cole will have to be admitted to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for a total of five weeks for intense medical treatments along with physical and occupational therapy.    

Since birth, Cole has suffered nine broken bones along with several dislocations. On July 18th, 2012, Cole suffered a stroke and was in the pediatric intensive care unit on a ventilator.  Since his first stroke, Cole has had four mini strokes and hospitalized five times for severe intense pain.  Cole needs numerous medical accommodations on a daily basis to make him comfortable such as pain management therapy and an oxygen tank.  Cole wishes for nothing more than a normal childhood.  

I’m sure many can relate that when a child is in any pain, it breaks our heart- especially if it was a child of our own.  Imagine your child being in extreme pain on a daily basis and having no way of taking that pain away.  I know I would feel so defenseless.  As parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers, sister and so on, we vow to protect our loved ones.  When we can’t protect them or take the pain away, it kills us.  Imagine again that your loved one is in pain every single day of his life. And at such a young age, he suppresses it, so his family’s heart doesn’t break.  

As if having a child with extreme medical issues wasn’t enough of a burden on the family, they have recently suffered some financial hardships.  Cole’s everyday pain management costs the family about $100.00 a day in co-pays alone.  Recently, Michelle found out that the insurance may not even cover the pain management anymore.  It has been a constant struggle with the insurance company on everything that pertains to Cole. Michele has been forced to take a leave of indefinite absence from her job to care for Cole.  His father not only serves in the military, but works from sun up to sun down to support the financial needs of a son with such medical needs.  

The family has suffered so much, yet whenever you see them, they have nothing but smiles on their faces.  When you look at Cole, he has nothing but bright smiles and laughter.  One would not even be able to tell he had any issues.  Not all diseases, as most of us know, are visible on the outside.  There are some that just tear a person apart on the inside.  These two diseases are unfortunately doing this to such a brave little boy.  Michelle is a beam of hope when you speak to her.  She puts a smile on her face every day and fights on every day for her son and to gives him as much of a normal life as possible.  I’m fairly certain that the majority of the readers would agree that Cole has gone through more medical hardships then most will ever go through in their entire lifetime- and he is only five years old.

To show the family support, friends and family will be holding a benefit on January 18th, 2014 at the American Legion in Brooklawn, NJ. Many have gathered to reach out to local businesses to support the Chinese auction and silent auction that will be featured at the benefit.  Cole has been a ray of light to so many and now it’s our turn to give back to Cole. Show Cole how many support him and support all he goes through.  He may not be able to have a normal life so to speak, but he can have many who love him.  Anyone interested in supporting this benefit by donating a basket or to purchase tickets, please reach out to me via email at karstebbins@gmail.com

Karen Stebbins is a mom of four and wife of a loving husband who shares her love of sports (or else she wouldnt have said yes). Karen is an experienced paralegal and freelance writer on a variety of topics. Sports is her passion and her love of the game is undeniable.

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