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Hoping for a million

REXFORD - Lori and Matt Sames have been searching for a way to eradicate a rare neurological disorder known as giant axonal neuropathy since their daughter, Hannah, was diagnosed with the condition three years ago. Now, it appears efforts to raise necessary funding to research GAN have taken a huge step forward.

Hannah's Hope Fund has been awarded a $500,000 matching grant from the Sunshine Lady Foundation, a private family foundation established by philanthropist Doris Buffett, sister of billionaire Warren Buffett. The connection between Hannah's Hope Fund and the Sunshine Lady Foundation was made by an 84-year-old woman from Niskayuna in Schenectady County who learned of Hannah's condition through local news coverage, said Hannah's aunt, Carrie Favaro of Saranac, who has been helping oversee fundraising efforts in the North Country. The woman contacted the Sunshine Lady Foundation and made the foundation aware of Hannah's Hope Fund. Not long after, Sames said she was contacted by the foundation about how they could help Hannah's Hope Fund.

"Oh my goodness, I was just amazed," said Sames, who, along with her husband, is originally from the Plattsburgh area. "I was breathless."

"It's just amazing," said Favaro. "It was serendipity, I guess."

A representative from the foundation outlined the terms of the matching grant - also referred to as a challenge grant - noting the foundation would match up to $500,000 dollar for dollar raised between Aug. 15, 2009, and Feb. 15, 2010.

"At first, I thought they meant 2011," said Sames, "but they said that it was actually 2010. The reason is because having a shorter amount of time to donate supposedly makes people more inclined to make a donation instead of having it in the back of their mind, thinking they have more time to donate."

Since Aug. 15, Hannah's Hope Fund has raised more than $160,000 that will qualify toward the challenge grant, said Favaro. In order to make up the difference by their deadline, fundraising has been stepped up considerably, she said.

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