Caring for a Cause hosts spirit night for Sarah Howell


Photo courtesy of Caring for a Cause

Sarah Howell, senior, has recently been diagnosed with AutoImmune Encephalitis, a non-contagious disease in which the immune system makes antibodies that harm healthy brain cells. She was diagnosed at Duke Children’s Hospital in North Carolina in September.

Ashley Edwards, Photo Editor

Sarah Howell, senior, has recently been diagnosed with AutoImmune Encephalitis, or AE, a non-contagious disease in which the brain is essentially attacking itself. Caring for a Cause is holding a spirit night at Shane’s Rib Shack in McDonough, Nov.12 from 5:30pm-8:00 to raise money for her treatment.

Nikki Rogers, founder of Caring for a Cause, had people in the Ola Community reach out to her about Howell and her needs. Caring for a Cause is an organization in Henry County that helps families in need, typically with sick children.

“With the medical expenses, we just thought that it would be a great opportunity for us the show the family some love and to help them financially as well raising awareness about her condition, so that more people can be praying for her,” Rogers said.

Kimberly Gibson, office assistant at Ola Elementary School, was one of the three to reach out from the organization. When she heard about Howell’s situation, she wanted to help right away.

“When Sarah was in elementary school, I worked in the special-ed class that she was in. I was a ParaPro in the classroom, so I just got to know her family,” Gibson said.

For Howell’s treatment, her family is transporting her to Macon Medical Center every two weeks and Duke Children’s Hospital in North Carolina for IVIG treatment, therapy that involves medication through a needle and is given to a patient when their condition cannot be treated with oral medicine, once a month. This can become very expensive, which is why the fundraiser is so necessary.

“[I hope they receive] The financial help to get them back and forth to North Carolina. I know that’s the big thing, they have to stay overnight. [I want] Just for them to have a sign of relief,” Gibson said.

Howell was first diagnosed when she was in the hospital from Sep. 24 to Oct.15 at Duke when she was diagnosed with mycoplasma, a sickness that can trigger AE. Mark Howell, S. Howell’s father has been with her every step of the way as well as S. Howell’s stepmother, Margie Howell.

“[AE has] A lot of pain associated with it. She gets migraines, she gets mouth pain, she gets jaw pain, throat pain. She’s even having trouble swallowing. The signal that you and I would have that says ‘Hey, it’s okay to swallow’, she gets a delayed signal. She’ll ask us a lot of times, ‘can I swallow?’,” M. Howell said.

With AE, the brain essentially attacks itself; the immune system makes antibodies that harm healthy brain cells. This also harms the immune system, making it weaker.

Photo Courtesy of Caring for a Cause
S.Howell is known for always keeping a positive attitude and a smile on her face. “She’s just a little ray of sunshine,” Stephanie Brown, teacher said.

“Another thing is, her immune system is way down right now, so we have to be careful with that kind of thing and the treatment that she’s taking actually pushes her immune system down so that the antibodies won’t attack her brain,” M.Howell said.

The disease can also greatly affect emotions, sometimes causing extreme mood swings.

“She loves to laugh, she loves people, she loves to hug, but, again, this disease can affect those emotions at any time and make it not like she is her normal self. We never know how she’s gonna feel in a particular moment,” M. Howell said.

Overall, S. Howell is distinguished by her positivity and love for others. She is known for lighting up a room with her spirit.

“She just has such a precious spirit. She truly does have Christ in her heart and it’s very evident. I’ve never heard a harsh word out of that child’s mouth. She just always finds something kind to say. She’s just a little ray of sunshine,” Stephanie Brown, moderate intellectually disabled teacher at Ola High School, said.

Brown has been teaching S. Howell for a while and loves every minute she gets to spend with her. Brown loves her positivity towards others and in the classroom.

“If you’ve never met her, she is just full of giggles. She’s just a kind hearted, happy-go-lucky young lady. She will just make your day with hugs and kisses. She’ll just love on you. If you don’t know her, you’re missing a blessing,” Brown said.

The Howell family is extremely grateful for the spirit night being held Monday.

“We are so thankful for Caring for a Cause and Nikki Rogers for loving on Sarah through this event. We are Ola strong because our community has lifted us up during this difficult time,” M. Howell said.

The spirit night will be held on Mon., Nov. 12 from 5:30-8:30 p.m. at Shane’s Rib Shack in McDonough. The night will include a place to put receipts to go to S. Howell and her family, as well as a raffle to donate.

If one cannot make it to the event, the raffle will also be done online through PayPal on Caring for a Cause’s Facebook feed. The drawing and winners will be announced that night.

For more information on AutoImmune Encephalitis go to