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Food All Around Him, This Child Can't Eat; A Family Needs Help

Harford County boy who has overcome several hurdles looks to conquer one more.

Jesse Bonham, 7, of Bel Air, is trying to learn to eat through a special program in Baltimore.
Jesse Bonham, 7, of Bel Air, is trying to learn to eat through a special program in Baltimore.

For the past month, a mother in Bel Air has been traveling 120 miles a day to help her 7-year-old son eat.

Jesse Bonham has been through various forms of therapy, from swimming to speech, since his birth—which was 11 weeks premature—according to his mom, Amber.

Despite being diagnosed with cerebral palsy, sensory processing disorder and petit mal seizures, Jesse has learned to walk and talk, and he attends school.

At this point, Jesse's biggest problem is that he hasn't eaten solid foods, Amber Bonham said.

He eats several containers of baby food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. 

No one has explained why eating is such a struggle, his mom said, but over the winter, he lost half a pound, which was a lot for Jesse, who weighs 46 pounds.

Last month, he started a feeding program at Mount Washington Pediatric Hospital.

Since parents are not allowed to stay and because of the cost of childcare, Amber Bonham has been dropping Jesse off at 9 a.m. in Mount Washington, then returning to Bel Air to look after her other two children before heading back to pick him up at 5 p.m.; the result is 120 miles and up to four hours on the road each day.

While it’s taking a toll to go daily from Bel Air to Mount Washington, Amber Bonham said this is Jesse’s last chance to eat on his own before he will have to get a feeding tube.

"You do what you have to for your kids," she said. "Jesse is really one of the sweetest, most lovable kids that you will ever meet. If you meet Jesse, you immediately love him. He loves and hugs everyone he meets."

In addition to Jesse, the Bonhams have two other children, according to family friend Cheryl Holler, who launched a Go Fund Me campaign to raise money for them.

The family, which is struggling to pay for gas and childcare, will probably not be able to afford Easter baskets this year, Holler said Thursday.

Despite the challenges, Jesse is making progress. "He's drinking PediaSure and tasting new foods," his mother said. "The amounts he tastes are quite small, and his road is still long, but the fact he's doing it is huge."

Holler said she set up the Go Fund Me page to ensure the family could afford gas and childcare for the six-week program.

The campaign was capped at $2,500 and Amber Bonham said whatever wasn’t used would go toward another child in need. "I don't expect a handout," she told Patch. "You do what you need to to better your children. It's what we have always done when it comes to Jesse."

As of the fourth week of Jesse's treatment, $335 had been donated, and Holler said the family desperately needed help.

“Amber is a wonderful mother who goes way above and beyond for her children,” Holler said. "This family is desperately in need of some financial support and if the word gets out in your community, it might help them."


Pat Benjamin April 18, 2014 at 11:11 AM
Mt. Washington is an affiliate of the University of Maryland system, the Ronald McDonald House could be a viable option for this family.
Linda Hoffecker April 18, 2014 at 01:35 PM
Pat Benjamin, excellent suggestion!
Amber April 18, 2014 at 01:48 PM
Thank you!!!
Dudley Fraser April 20, 2014 at 10:06 PM
Amber, My granddaughter had the same problem and she was treated at the Ronald McDonald House in Baltimore and they have accommodation for Parents. so as Pat and Linda said, please give it try.
Amber April 22, 2014 at 01:14 AM
Thank you!!

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