At first glance, 10-year old Eli Groder is a happy, gregarious child without a care in the world. You’d never know that he’s often smiling through the pain caused by an auto-immune ailment that sometimes makes it tough.
When he was five, Eli started having problems. In the beginning, doctors did not know what was wrong with Eli, his mother, Tammy, said. His symptoms continued throughout the years, with no simple diagnosis in sight.
In December 2015, Eli was life-flighted to San Antonio where he spent 14 days in the hospital. It was then that doctors were able to diagnose the then nine-year old with Behcet’s disease, a rare vascular auto-immune disorder that causes inflammation throughout the body. In Eli’s case, he is only one of 89 children in the United States who has been diagnosed with the disease. In the world, only approximately 200,000 people have been diagnosed.
Although Eli’s doctors visits have been cut to once every other month, medical expenses for the incurable disease have mounted over time. A local organization, the Silent Heroes Motorcycle Club, has stepped forward to try to ease the financial burden for Eli’s parents, Aaron and Tammy Groder.
On Saturday, a benefit will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Family PowerSports, 4160 W. Houston Harte Expressway, hosted by the Silent Heroes MC and cosponsored by the Military Firefighters Foundation.
The event is free and open to the public and food plates, catered by Bubba’s Smokehouse, will be available for $10. A food ticket also enters attendees into a drawing for raffle items.
Even though he’s got Behcet’s, Eli lives every day with a smile and a purpose. The Bonham Elementary School student’s positivity is contagious.
“I do a lot of things.” Eli said. “I play catch with my Dad. I play on the Wii. I love soccer, baseball and I like bowling.”
“I talk to his mom every day,” said Brandon Vaughn from the Silent Heroes MC. “She lets me know that he’s having a good day and when he’s not having a great day.”
Eli is a member of Vaughn’s Little League baseball team. Vaughn said on some occasions, he has to tell Eli to take it easy because he’s so eager to be engaged with his teammates.
“When he’s doing something he likes, he does it one hundred percent.” Vaughn said.
Vaughn said he and others decided to try to help the Groder family with expenses to have a fund for anything they need. He said Eli has always wanted to visit a Disney theme park and the Silent Heroes want to help him get there.
For more information about the Eli Groder benefit, contact Vaughn at 334-791-9244. To learn more about Behcet’s disease, behcets.com.