January 08, 2010
Christopher "Critter" Smith keeps battling leukemia that won't go away

By William Croyle
Photo by Patrick Reddy / The Enquirer

IN THE PHOTO - Critter Smith with a pair of drum sticks used by KISS drummer Eric Singer at a concert Smith attended in Milwaukee. Smith, who has leukemia, attended the concert as a guest of the band and had a backstage pass to meet and be photographed with the band.

Christopher "Critter" Smith and the leukemia that invaded his body two-and-a-half years ago are still battling each other.

Every time it seems the 12-year-old has beaten it, the disease or infections resulting from it recur.

"His spirits are usually up, but I think he's sick of being sick," said his mother, Carol Smith.

The disease is also taking a toll on the family financially.

Critter's story received some national attention last year after he stated in an interview with The Enquirer that he was a big fan of the rock group KISS. Word reached the band, prompting singer Paul Stanley and drummer Eric Singer to call Critter at the hospital and fly him to Milwaukee in June for one of their concerts.

To help them with mounting bills, a benefit will be held from 6-10 p.m. Saturday at the Newport Elks Lodge, 3704 Alexandria Pike in Cold Spring.

A $10 donation per person will include food, beverages and a live band. Several raffles will be held, and donations of items for the raffles are still being accepted.

"I'd like to raise $10,000," said Critter's aunt, Janet Smith Kalfrat of Bellevue, one of the organizers of the event. "I really don't know if that's possible, but whatever we raise will help."

Critter, a fifth grader at Fourth Street Elementary School, was diagnosed in July 2007 with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a cancer of the white blood cells. In the six subsequent months, he underwent a round of radiation, five chemotherapy treatments and a bone marrow transplant. He returned to school and was in remission for 15 months until the cancer reappeared in January 2009.

Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center was as much his home in 2009 as his own home in Newport. He's avoided overnight stays at the hospital since mid-December, but has been too weak to return to school.

His low white blood cell counts have made him very susceptible to infections. Critter will undergo several tests this week to find out why the counts are so low. Once they increase, he will resume chemotherapy treatments.

Kalfrat said Critter may be at the fund-raiser.

"He wants to be there," Kalfrat said. "It will just depend on how he feels."

To donate raffle items, or for more information on the event, call 859-291-9120 or 859-240-5010. Donations can also be made at any Fifth Third Bank location to the Christopher Smith Benefit Fund.