Dakota leaves for operation

Leader staff writer

__Two weeks after finding a doctor with an innovative cancer treatment on the other side of the world for Dakota Hawkins, he and his family are leaving this morning for the Holy Land for an experimental leukemia treatment for the Cabot teenager which is not available in this country. __Although no single, large donation has been announced, fundraising efforts have met and exceeded the goal of $127,000 the family needs to cover its medical costs. Any extra funds raised will help the family live and travel while in Israel for several months.
__ A family spokesman said churches and individuals have made several large unpublicized donations. "We are overwhelmed and humbled from the love this community has shown our family. We are proud to be from Cabot and the surrounding area. God has such a tremendous plan for our son. Keep the faith with us as we journey to Jerusalem. May God bless your giving spirit," said Sharon Hawkins, Dakota's mother.
__ Dakota's father, Henry, is principal at Cabot's Junior High South. The Hawkins family was scheduled to leave Little Rock for Newark and then fly on to Tel Aviv.
__ The nearly 11-hour, cross-Atlantic flight will put them in Israel Thursday morning, and then they will drive 22 miles west to Jerusalem to undergo treatment at Hadassah Medical Center.
__ Dakota, 14, received a bone marrow transplant from his brother Riley, 12, more than a year ago, but the teenager's leukemia returned in late November. While he was at the M.D. Anderson Hospital in Houston for additional treatments and therapy last week, Dakota's family learned of Dr. Shimon Slavin, an Israeli cancer specialist.
__ Dr. Slavin's treatments included using the mother as a bone marrow donor due to the cells that the mother and baby share during pregnancy and unrelated donors.
__ The decision was made and the family got their passports while in Houston last week. They returned to Cabot Saturday and in the midst of their preparations to live abroad for several months, went to Arkansas Children's Hospital Tuesday for Dakota to receive blood cells and platelets to sustain him during the flight.
__ His mother, Sharon, has been keeping family, friends and well-wishers updated through an online journal www.caringbridge.org/ar/ keepthefaith.
__ Internet connection charges in Israel are $3-$55 per minute, so daily postings may not be possible, said Jim Coy, a friend of the family.
__ The Coys and Hawkins families have known each other since Dakota and Zach Coy were in kindergarten together. Jim Coy, who is president of the Cabot School Board, said Sharon has home schooled Dakota and kept him caught up with the curriculum his classmates are following. Teachers in Cabot who have toured the Holy Land are assisting the family with housing there.
__ "I just spent a couple of hours with the family. Dakota's pale, but he feels well. If it weren't for the leukemia, he'd be very excited about the trip. Riley is a little bit worried there's not going to be McDonald's over there, " Jim Coy said.
__ "The family is just overwhelmed by the financial support from Cabot; I think it speaks highly of the family," he added. In addition to fundraisers throughout the community by groups, such as Saturday's fish fry at Dude's Place, as well as by individuals, the Hawkins' church, Mt. Carmel Baptist Church, has given the family several offerings.
__ The Dakota Hawkins Benefit Golf Tournament is scheduled for March 22 at Cypress Creek Golf Course at Greystone. It will be a four-man scramble with a 1 p.m. shotgun start. Registration will be $400 per team.