Students to hold Paint N’ Slip benefit

Erika Ward

Two students, Dayna Heaton and Tracy Juske, noticed a friend in need and began to plan a benefit for their fellow classmate’s son.

Brad and Lauren Eidson took their now 1-year-old son Will, to the hospital in Quincy last March, thinking their son was just suffering from pneumonia. That idea was quickly shattered the next day, when Will was life-flighted to St. John’s Children’s Hospital in Springfield after going into respiratory distress.

“In Springfield, the doctors drained the fluid that surrounded and had collapsed his lung,” Juske said. “When the fluid was removed, the doctors discovered a large mass on Will’s spinal cord. On Easter, Will was diagnosed with low-risk neuroblastoma.”

While her son was undergoing treatments and chemotherapy, Lauren was still attending classes at Western Illinois University’s accountancy graduate program. It was decided by Will’s doctors that his current treatment wasn’t working, and the route that would need to be taken was surgery to remove the tumor.

“A few weeks after the surgery, Will was having a hard time crawling and was showing signs of leg weakness,” Juske said. “A MRI showed that the tumor had grown back and was severely compressing his spinal cord. The doctors were shocked and informed us that Will’s neuroblastoma was a lot more aggressive than they had initially thought.”

The Eidson family is now preparing for Will to go through a more aggressive treatment method.

“He has had four more rounds of chemo — eight total — and will travel to St. Louis on November 21 to receive a high dose of chemo followed by a stem cell transplant,” Juske said. “While in St. Louis, he will also receive radiation therapy on his spinal cord. He will conclude his treatment in Springfield with five months of immunotherapy.”

Heaton and Juske said they were humbled after watching Lauren go through this with her son, while still managing to attend classes regularly.

“It’s so easy for us to complain about how difficult school or life is, but when we began to process what Lauren was going through, we couldn’t imagine the stress something like this has on your life, your relationships and your family,” Juske said. “Lauren never asks for anything and she never complains. We just wanted a way to get her mind off the stress, if even for a couple hours, and show her that there are people that are here to support her and her family.”

Heaton and Juske, classmates of Lauren’s, decided to help the family by hosting a Paint N’ Sip fundraiser at the VFW in Macomb on Nov. 9
from 6 to 8 p.m.

“We wanted to do something light and fun,” Juske said.  “A way for us to show support, raise money and have Lauren’s biggest stress be about her artwork for the night.”

Juske and Heaton also reached out to other organizations on campus in search of more support, including Western’s Dance Marathon, a group that raises money for Children’s Miracle Network hospitals.

“We reached out to Dance Marathon after we saw the support they give to their families during their event,” Juske said.  “We were hoping to gain the same support for Will.”

The Paint and Sip event costs $32 and there are two different snowman paintings that participants can choose to paint.  Participants can register at

“Will is still a happy, fun-loving baby who needs your help to win this fight,” reads the flyer for the event.  “We will win.”