ALBANY -- Spend a little time around Hartwell Faircloth, and you get the impression that he's just like any other precocious 6-year-old.
But Hartwell's different from most of his peers in a couple of ways. First, he's one of those rare youngsters who worries more about others -- about his mom, his siblings, his grandmom Elizabeth "Babe" Faircloth, the other people in his life -- than he does himself.
That makes him an amazing little guy.
But the second thing that makes Hartwell different from other kids is something he has no control over, an insidious something that's taken his life and turned it upside-down.
Hartwell has acute lymphoblastic leukemia. That's bad enough. But his condition is complicated by the chromosomal condition severe hypodiploid, which basically works to negate the impact of the chemotherapy treatments Hartwell endures every Tuesday at the MCG Children's Medical Center in Augusta.
"Hartwell's on a three-year treatment plan right now," the youngster's mother, Kayla Dollar, said. "He's in the consolidation stage of his chemo treatment in Augusta. After about two months, if everything goes well, Hartwell will get a bone marrow transplant (from big sister Destiny Faircloth) at the Aflac Children's Cancer Center in Atlanta.
"He'll be in the hospital in Atlanta for four to six weeks, and then spend another two or three months at the Ronald McDonald Transplant Suite before he can come home."
But that's not the end of the story. If everything goes according to plan and Hartwell recovers sufficiently, he will start going back to Augusta for more chemotherapy treatment.
"I don't wish this on anybody," Kayla Dollar says, glancing over at her son. "But Hartwell gives us such strength. He fights better than any adult would, and he worries more about how everyone else reacts to his treatment than he worries about himself."
Kayla and Hartwell's stepdad, Jeremy Dollar, spend most of their waking time dealing with Hartwell's treatment regimen and with the everyday issues of his three siblings: sister Destiny, 8; stepbrother, Aiden Dollar, 5, and little brother Jayden Faircloth, 2. Those concerns almost push the family's financial realities far enough into the we'll-deal-with-them-later background that the young parents can cope with the more pressing ones.
"We spend so much of our lives worrying about monetary things, but we've learned that all of that doesn't really matter," Jeremy Dollar said. "Yes, we know that we'll have to pay for Hartwell's care, but all that matters right now is him getting the treatment and getting better."
Of course, the reality is that Kayla Dollar had to place her education on hold to take care of Hartwell's special needs. And Jeremy Dollar, well, he got the bad news just a few days ago that he'd been laid off from his position at Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany.
And the first bill for Hartwell's treatment was delivered last week: $109,000.
Friends and acquaintances of the Dollars, however, have decided they won't let the young family fight this monumental battle alone. The Lee County Explorers club hosted a car wash fundraiser last week, and Saturday two more events are planned. From 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., Charlene Maldonado and Sondra Kennedy will host a giant yard sale at the Quickie restaurant's back parking lot at 1906 N. Slappey Blvd.
At 7 p.m. that night, the doors of the State Theatre will open for a Hope for Hartwell Benefit concert, featuring local bands Drive Down Holly, Swamp Donkey, Queen Kong and The Giving End. Tickets for the benefit, which will be hosted by Redbone Phatts, are $10.
Also during the evening's activities, "Pray for Hartwell" decals, T-shirts and bracelets will be on sale, and both raffles and a silent auction will be conducted.
Dollar, who is a musician, said some of his musical friends -- including members of the influential Atlanta-based rock band Sevendust, who Dollar befriended when he was a member of the now defunct Monroe Brown -- have gotten involved in fundraising efforts on Hartwell's behalf.
"Clint (Lowery) and Morgan (Rose) from Sevendust told us they're putting together an awesome package for the auction," Dollar said. "And Lajon (Witherspoon, the band's lead singer) has mentioned Hartwell's situation from the stage during the Carnival of Madness Tour (which also features Shinedown, Puddle of Mudd and Chevelle).
"A lot of the musicians have been tweeting about Hartwell ... It's pretty overwhelming."
Local businesses like Moe's, Albany Motor Cars, Trademark Tattoos, Custom Printing and BioBuzz have also gotten involved, helping sponsor the weekend fundraisers.
"You hear a lot about the bad things and the bad people in the world today, but there are a lot of good people, too," Kayla Dollar said. "We've heard from people as far away as Washington state through some of the websites (see box), people that we have no clue who they are, and they've made donations to help Hartwell.
"And all the local people, including the folks at Sherwood Christian Academy who are allowing Hartwell to keep up with his classwork through homeschooling, are really reaching out to us. It means so much to our family."
Despite their let's-do-what-we-have-to-do determination, the Dollars and their kids are a family in crisis. That there's an amazing little guy named Hartwell who is in the middle of the fight, bravely dealing with his part of the crisis every day of his life, makes their load a little more bearable.