Fund set up for Lupus patients

Friday, September 26, 2008

It's been 10 years since Heidi Ross passed away, but her family is still dedicated to helping fight the disease that took the young girl's life.

"Our daughter Heidi died from complications of lupus," said Reggie Ross. "Shortly after her death, my wife and I set up a Heidi Ross Memorial Fund with the Putnam County Community Foundation to educate people about lupus. Our desire was to help prevent any other parent from losing a loved one to this mysterious blood disorder disease, which has no cure and no known source of how it occurs."

Heidi was 17 when she died on July 25, 1998. She was a student at South Putnam High School, where she was a three-sport athlete and a member of the National Honor Society. She was a member of 4-H, and showed chickens and goats at the Putnam County 4-H Fair.

"Her chickens that were sold at the 1998 fair set a record which may never be broken," Reggie said.

In the years since they lost their daughter and sister, the Rosses have held their own fundraisers, and other events to raise money for lupus research and education have been held in Heidi's name.

"Each year, we have sent the money somewhere to educate the public," Reggie said. "The last few years, we have dedicated the money to the Indiana Chapter of the Lupus Foundation of America in Hobart."

Heidi's older sister, Leah Nichols, has spent much time participating in fund raisers.

"It has been 10 years since Heidi passed away," she said. "Unfortunately, not much more is known about the disease now than we knew then. There is not a day that goes by that I do not think of all those still suffering with this horrible autoimmune disease."

Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that attacks the body's cells and tissues, resulting in inflammation and tissue damage. It can affect any part of the body, but most often harms the joints, skin, lungs, blood vessels, liver, kidneys and nervous system.

On Saturday, a Walk for Lupus will be held in Indianapolis at Military Park at White Rive State Park -- with the Heidi Ross Memorial Fund as one of the sponsors. The event will begin at 9 a.m.

Contributions to the Lupus Foundation in Heidi's name can be made online at www.walkfor

A decade after her death, Reggie still has a hard time comprehending how many people cared about his daughter.

"Each year, we learn of someone else Heidi's life -- or death -- has made an impact on," he said. "We had no idea of the number of people that she knew in the Midwest, let alone in Indiana and Putnam County. We are humbled by her example that she left on the people she touched and their willingness to help in this cause."

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