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Tie-dyes for Ty's eyes

MEDFORD — Griffin Creek Elementary School students tied and their parents dyed Wednesday in preparation for a benefit concert of Beatles songs to help pay for a third-grader's experimental treatments for blindness in Thailand.

About seven moms and one grandpa gathered at the school to make 650 tie-dyed T-shirts for kindergarten through sixth-grade students to wear at the concert. The proceeds will help pay for eye treatments using regenerative umbilical stem cells for Ty Newcombe, a Griffin Creek third-grader and the school's Sparrow.

"It's just a drop in the bucket to what the family needs," said Ginny Hicks, Griffin Creek principal.

Sparrow Clubs help raise money for children with critical illnesses. Diagnosed with optic nerve hypoplasia when he was 3 months old, Ty only can see shadows — no colors or shapes — and is legally blind.

Ty's family hopes the treatments will restore his eyesight. The treatments, scheduled for May in Bangkok, will cost more than $40,000. The entire cost of the trip, the treatments and a week in an oxygen tent will be about $70,000, according to the family's Web site, www.hopeforty.com.

The treatments are considered experimental for optic nerve hypoplasia and are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration. They're not covered by insurance, according to the family's Web site.

"It's going to be really cool that he's going to be able to come back to school next year with his sight," said Rose Graham, a mom of a Griffin Creek second-grader and a volunteer at the tie-dye project.

Graham is looking forward to hearing her son, Jase, sing "Yellow Submarine" with his classmates, all in corresponding yellow-dyed shirts.

"I know we're helping the Sparrow, but for me, I'm kinda selfish 'cause I get to hear the kids sing," she said. "They don't do that anymore."

The concert will begin at 7 p.m. Feb. 18 at South Medford High School. Each grade will present a Beatles' song, including "When I'm 64," "Good Day Sunshine," and "Octopus' Garden." At the end of the concert, Ty and all the other students will sing a revised version of "A Little Help From My Friends."

The students have been practicing their class songs at school and at home.

"My son's been singing his song over and over," said Nicole Symonds, a mother of three Griffin Creek students and a volunteer at the tie-dye project. "The same five words."

The school adopted Ty as its Sparrow two years ago. It held several fundraisers and was able to buy a $4,000 braille typewriter for him. Hicks said this year the school hosted a penny drive and a 2-kilometer costume run on Halloween.

School officials were worried that the school wouldn't have the money to pay for the tie-dyed T-shirts for all the students to wear, Graham said. However, parents contributed the majority of the shirts, and a local Arco station paid for the dye.

"You do it and the blessings just happen," Graham said.

Admission at the concert will be $2. Donations to the Hope for Ty Fund may be sent to Griffin Creek Elementary School, 2430 Griffin Creek Road, Medford, OR 97501.

Reach Southern Oregon University intern Teresa Beskow at 776-4464 or intern1@mailtribune.com.

Family and supporters of third-grader Ty Newcombe, who is legally blind, hope stem-cell treatments in Thailand will help restore his sight. They’re raising money for the trip through a concert of Beatles songs Feb. 18. “It’s just a drop in the bucket to what the family needs,” said Ginny Hicks, Newcombe’s principal at Griffin Creek Elementary School. - Bob Pennell