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'We still consider Lake Orion our home'



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January 12, 2011 - During the 2011 Florida Gator Bowl, Andrew Hamilton, a former area resident, marched with the rest of his junior high school band during the event's halftime show.

Tonya Hamilton, Andrew's mother, said that it was a special event for the kids who were able to attend, especially because the bands that played were not normally part of their school's marching band program.

"It was really neat for them to be invited by the Gator Bowl Association," said Tonya. "Many of [the kids] had never marched before, and had only ever been in concert band, so they went from never having marched, to learning how to march, to marching in the Gator Bowl halftime show.

"They only found out they were going to be marching in the Gator Bowl at the beginning of the school year."

The Lake Orion Review reported on the Hamiltons in 2000 because of their contributions to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (CFF), which seeks to deter and eventually cure the disease of the same name.

Cystic Fibrosis is a genetic disorder that primarily affects the lungs, pancreas, and digestive system. Normally, the human body cleans out materials that accumulates in these organs, but this process does not happen in bodies affected by Cystic Fibrosis. Because of this, Cystic Fibrosis victims must take supplements to combat the disorder or suffer symptoms including shortness of breath, poor food absorption, and at the worst, fatal infections.

The Hamiltons had organized an event in Lake Orion to help contribute to the CFF called the "Bowl for Breath," which donated $29,000 to the organization between 1998 and 2000. Thanks in part to these types of contributions and the efforts of the CFF, the life expectancy for a victim of Cystic Fibrosis has gone up from as little as eight to 31 years old in about ten years time.

Tonya stressed how impressed she was with Andrew's progress throughout the planning and execution of the halftime show, even with his ever-present condition.

"Andrew had been to the hospital three times in 2010 and spent most of the last six months with a peripherally inserted central catheter line running to his heart, all in addition to his normal treatments and therapies to keep himself healthy," said Tonya. "All the while he was practicing with the band three days a week from August to September and got a 'all-A' report card for the first marking period.

"We feel that the trombone playing helps him maintain his lung health."

While the family left the area four years ago to live in Greensboro, NC due to business reasons, Tonya said that she and her family miss the Lake Orion area, calling the differences between Michigan and the South almost "comical."

"It's kind of funny how here all it takes is the mention of snow to close schools down for an entire day," said Tonya. "We've lived here in North Carolina for four years now, but we still miss Lake Orion.

"We still consider Lake Orion our home."

Tonya graduated from Lake Orion High School in 1991 and Andrew attended Webber elementary before the move to North Carolina.

Bill Fromm, a teacher at Webber Elementary, fondly remembers when Andrew attended the school, and said that he had a particular aptitude in his art class.

"Andrew was always the first at the door for art, and he always asked me 'what are we doing today?' in such a fun and excited manner," said Fromm. "He was very serious with his drawings and showed a great talent in [drawing] and ceramics at an early age.

"It was sad hearing he was moving to another state and I hope he is doing well and is still active in art."

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