IAM retiree raises $11,000 for boy with rare illness

MONROE — A retired Machinists Union member who raffled off his ’57 drag racer raised more than $11,000 for the family of a baby boy with a rare illness.

That included more than $4,000 worth of raffle tickets sold to members of Machinists Union District Lodge 751, said Ron Cook, who parked his ’57 Chevrolet BelAir dragster at the union’s Everett Union Hall last week.

Union members “came through for us quite a bit,” said Cook, an Arlington resident.

The boy — 7-month-old Casen Buswell of Puyallup — has an incredibly rare genetic disorder called glomuvenous malformation. Only 14 people in the world are said to have the condition, which causes hardening of the skin and tissues within his muscles. This results in painful lesions that are sensitive to touch, pressure and sometimes temperature changes.

Doctors in Belgium have pioneered treatment, using lasers. But getting baby Casen and his family back-and-forth to Europe for the treatments is going to be tremendously expensive, Cook said. “It’s going to take quite a few hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions.”

Casen’s condition has been chronicled by local television and radio stations and newspapers. Cook said it was one of those TV reports — and the sound of Casen’s rapid, shallow breathing — that inspired him to act.

It reminded him of the way his mother breathed at the end of her life, when she was dying of lung cancer, Cook said. “I saw that little boy on TV, and I don’t know if it was God talking to me or maybe my mom, but it just clicked in my heart that that little baby hasn’t had a chance to live.”

Cook, who’d worked in tooling on 777s at Boeing’s Everett plant, was contemplating a retirement from amateur drag racing anyway. Injuries from a 2008 freeway accident had made it “hard for me to crawl in and out of the car anymore,” he said.

The only question was when to sell his car and what to do with the money.

Donating it to baby Casen and his family was a way to help out, and give back, Cook said. “This baby, to me, needs more help.”

The winning ticket was drawn Sunday at Evergreen Speedway at Monroe. The winner was 82-year-old Della Phillips of Arlington. Cook said she told him she plans to give the car to her grandson.

If you want to donate to the Buswell family, go online at www.giveforward.com where the family has set up an account for donors.

Originally formed in 1935 to represent hourly workers at the Boeing Co., District Lodge 751 of the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers now represents 33,000 working men and women at 48 employers across Washington, Oregon and California. In 2011, members of the Machinists Volunteer Program gave more than 10,000 hours of their time to community service, while other volunteers collected more than $263,000 for Guide Dogs of America, the union’s charity of choice.

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