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Hilltown Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, August 12, 2010

Bartells hold benefit for granddaughter Brooke

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

EAST BERNE — After years of caring for foster children, Leo and Leah Bartell are now putting their considerable energies into helping their own grandchild — Brooke Iveson.

Brooke was born a year ago with “three rare syndromes,” Mrs. Bartell said.

She is the youngest of four children of Stacey, a Berne-Knox-Westerlo graduate, and Tim Iveson, who live in Colonie.

The Bartells are holding a garage sale this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at their home at 28 Bush Drive in East Berne.

That same well-kept one-story house has been home to many foster children. In 2004, the Bartells were named Foster Parents of the Year by Albany County. At that point, they had taken 36 children into their home.

Mrs. Bartell said then that she had been interested in caring for troubled children for most of her life. “I’ve been taking people in since I was 15,” she said.

The Bartells remembered taking care of friends of their own three children. One year was especially crowded in the Bartell home. “We had three pregnant teenagers and delivered three babies,” Mr. Bartell said.

As foster parents, Mrs. Bartell said she specialized in caring for cocaine-addicted babies. “They’re the ones who need the most help,” she said. “That’s where the most need is.”

She gave up being a foster parent when she was diagnosed with interstitial fibrosis. “There’s no cure,” she said matter-of-factly. “They gave me one to five years to live. I’ve been alive three years since the diagnosis….I’m fine.”

She added, “That’s God’s work.”

Her granddaughter is being treated at Boston Children’s Hospital. She has been treated intermittently for periods of several weeks and will remain an outpatient there.

Mrs. Bartell moves into her daughter’s Colonie home to care for her other children when Mrs. Iveson is in Boston with Brooke. Six-year-old Lexi Iveson will ask her grandmother, “Why is she there?”

“I just say, Brooke is a very special child and needs special attention she can’t get here in Albany. Mommy has to be with her,” said Mrs. Bartell.

Brooke has never been able to eat and currently has a feeding tube, Mrs. Bartell said. “Other problems haven’t been discovered yet,” she said.

Mrs. Iveson stays with her daughter when she is being treated at Children’s Hospital. “Stacey didn’t leave the hospital room,” said Mrs. Bartell. “She slept on a cot for three weeks. She didn’t leave her baby’s side.”

Mr. Iveson continues his work as an electrician to support the family. “But they are struggling,” said Mrs. Bartell, paying for medical supplies not covered by insurance and for travel expenses.

This led the Bartells to hold the garage sale this weekend. It will run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. Directions and items for sale are listed in the classified section of The Enterprise. The Bartells will sell craft and Christmas items along with baby toys and clothes. “I have a lot of really good baby and toddler things,” said Mrs. Bartell.

Those who can’t make the sale but would like to contribute may call the Bartells at 872-1405.

Mrs. Bartell concluded by saying that her daughter shares her faith in God, which sustains them. She said that baby Brooke was born with one leg shorter than the other. “Because Jesus is a giver of miracles,” she said, “I’m waiting for the short leg to grow to the same length as the long leg. My faith carries me through an awful lot.”

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