Ogden photographers focus on helping 4-year-old with Leukemia

Friday , July 21, 2017 - 3:50 PM

SARAH WELLIVER/Standard-Examiner

Ian Cox sits next to his four-year-old son Ricky Monday, Aug. 7, 2017, at Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City. Ricky, who is battling leukemia, is getting help from local photographers working to raise money for him.

JANAE FRANCIS, Standard-Examiner Staff

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been revised as an earlier version failed to mention Ian Cox’s girlfriend of 4 1/2 years, Meg Wheeler, who has continuously helped to raise Rickey and who owns a home with Cox. We regret the error.

SALT LAKE CITY — There’s a noticeable bond between Rickey, a nonverbal South Ogden toddler with Down Syndrome, and his father.

This week as Ian Cox gently helped his son handle a toy and then pushed him in a wagon, Rickey found a way to smile through his pain.

Tiny Rickey is suffering through three weeks of painful chemotherapy treatments at Primary Children’s Hospital, Cox said. A loving 4-year-old, Rickey’s only means of communicating his admiration is putting his small arm around his dad.

“His latest way of showing his love for you, is putting his arm around you,” Rickey’s grandfather, Darwin Cox, said. He is formerly of Ogden but was visiting from his now-home in Nazareth, Pennsylvania.

Rickey, who was diagnosed with childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) in March, is the center of a community project to help his father and father’s girlfriend, Meg Wheeler, pay for 2 1/2 years of Rickey’s chemo treatments. ALL is a type of cancer in which the bone marrow makes too many of a type of white blood cell, according to the National Cancer Institute. 

A hobby photographer, Cox’s photography friends have banded together to sell prints on the website printsforprincerickey.com.

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All proceeds from the site go to Rickey’s treatments, including medical bills, his father’s lost wages, increased travel and living expenses during his treatment.

The love fellow photographers have for Cox and his son is evident on the site, where Rickey is described as the “sweetest boy ever.” 

“They are the kind of people that we all aspire to be,” according to the site. “They are the kindest, most generous, brilliant and loving people.”

The organizer of the site, Taylor Lund of Ogden, said photographers take care of one another.

“The photography community has always been so supportive,” he said. “We are a bunch of people working together to hold everybody up. I have never gotten a sense of competition.”

Lund said he wasn’t surprised to see a handful of his fellow photographers offer their work to help a friend in need.

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“It was not whether or not you are going to help, it is how,” Lund said. “It was kind of a no brainer to get something set up and have something where everyone is donating.”

The prices of the prints are slightly below the photographers’ standard retail pricing, Lund said.

“We’re not depending upon this for our income so we can be a little bit more flexible for our pricing,” he said.

On another fundraising site, Rickey is described as “a bundle of sweet, loving, energy,” a tease who likes to play with cars and trucks, play outside, throw toys for dogs and explore. “He is always up to something,” according to a write up on youcaring.com.

In the past few months on that site, well-wishers have raised $8,360 of a $40,000 goal there.

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Rickey’s battle began, according to the site, when his legs began bothering him for two weeks in March.

“He was having leg pains and he didn’t really walk for two weeks,” Cox said. “He didn’t want to put pressure on his legs at all.”

At first, his pediatrician thought he had strained his knee, according to the site.

But then the other leg started to hurt.

Wheeler knew that something was very wrong, and urged Cox to schedule a follow-up appointment for Rickey.

The pediatrician sent Cox and his son to Primary Children’s Hospital, where doctors quickly diagnosed him withe leukemia.

Within months of treatment, doctors were able to remove all signs of the disease, said his father. However, they believe that in order to ensure it doesn’t ever come back, he needs to undergo 2 1/2 years of frequent treatments.

The family will undergo expenses they can’t immediately estimate.

Additional costs have stemmed from an insurance issue that arose when Cox received custody of his son in January.

Because Cox makes more than a certain percentage of the poverty level, he was required to spend down his income by $1,464 before he was eligible for any benefits.

The father since was able to add Rickey to his employer’s insurance, ironically thanks to the fact that Cox’s dad, who previously carried their insurance, was let go from his employment. 

“I wasn’t in an open enrollment state so I couldn’t add him to my insurance,” Cox said.

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An engineer at Orbital ATK, Cox said he’s learned much through his son’s health issues as he has had to orchestrate his son’s childcare and medical needs and meeting his own needs while staying employed.

“I’ve definitely learned that family steps up as you would expect them to,” Cox said.

He was surprised to discover volunteers mowing his lawn and having co-workers bring in extra meals for him to take to the hospital.

“There are all of these things that are seemingly simple to do but make a remarkable difference,” Cox said. “You think you’ve got it all under control and then you realize that there are always those aspects of your life that get pulled out from underneath you when you’ve got this kind of a hospital stay.”

There are those who have never even met Rickey who are praying for him and think about him regularly, Cox said. “It’s pretty remarkable.”

Cox expressed his appreciation for all the community continues to do for him.

You may reach reporter JaNae Francis at jfrancis@standard.net or 801-625-4228. Follow her on Twitter at @JaNaeFrancisSE or like her on Facebook at facebook.com/SEJaNaeFrancis.