While the first name is the most obvious thing that Hines David Rotriga, 2, of Wheeling shares with former Pittsburgh Steelers player Hines Ward, they also share a trait for which the wide receiver became famous during his career - a winning smile.
Now as the tiny youngster with the big smile battles stage IV cancer, the football star is among thousands of people cheering for his namesake.
Little Hines, son of Kevin and Debbie Bringman Rotriga of Wheeling, has been diagnosed with stage IV neuroblastoma. Currently, the boy is a patient in West Virginia University Children's Hospital, Morgantown, where he has undergone surgery and has begun receiving chemotherapy treatment.
Photo by Joselyn King
Mike Harasuik, an employee at Miklas Meat Market, holds a copy of a cookbook being sold to benefit the family of 2-year-old Hines David Rotriga, recently diagnosed with stage IV neuroblastoma.
Word of a grassroots campaign, dubbed Hope for Hines, has spread far and wide. Ward, who played 14 seasons for the Steelers and is now an NBC studio analyst, learned of the efforts to raise money for medical expenses and to keep the 2-year-old patient's spirits high.
Ward sent this message via Facebook: "My thoughts and prayers are with the Rotriga family. I'm honored that you named your little guy Hines! (He has that signature smile.) Stay Strong Hines! Visit, LIKE and share your thoughts and inspiration for little Hines ... Hope for Hines."
Rotriga's parents became concerned when his smile disappeared in early December after he experienced discomfort and began limping. After numerous trips to his pediatrician, they took Hines to the emergency room Dec. 23.
Hines was transferred to WVU Children's Hospital where, on Christmas Eve, he underwent an MRI that revealed a mass behind his right ear. The day after Christmas, he was diagnosed with stage IV neuroblastoma.
Neuroblastoma is a disease in which malignant cancer cells form in nerve tissue of the adrenal gland, neck, chest or spinal cord, according to the National Cancer Institute. In stage IV, the tumor has spread to distant lymph nodes or other parts of the body.
According to family members, medical tests revealed Hines has cancerous spots on his hip and femur and in his bone marrow, as well as masses behind his right ear, stomach and around part of a kidney.
On Dec. 26, Hines underwent surgery to remove the mass behind his right ear. Doctors found that the mass was wrapped around a nerve, and they could not remove it completely.
He began his first round of chemotherapy Dec. 30. No new masses were confirmed by medical scans done on Jan. 8.
On Jan. 13, Hines was admitted to the intensive care unit after experiencing internal bleeding. Tests indicated the chemotherapy was fighting off cancer tumors; the bleeding in his stomach later stopped. His next round of chemotherapy is set to begin Monday, Jan. 20.
In an effort to show Hines that he is not fighting alone, a Hope for Hines Facebook page has attracted the attention of more than 7,400 well-wishers, including the posting by Hines' namesake.
Betty Jane Fadoul, who has known the Rotriga family most of her life, said she was emotionally touched after hearing of young Hines' medical fight. "I just knew that I had to do something," she said.
Fadoul is among those currently giving their time and efforts to raise money for Hines and his family as he continues his fight in Morgantown. Kevin Rotriga is a branch manager at United Refrigeration, while Debbie Rotriga is an employee at Miklas Meat Market, which is owned by Hines' uncle and aunt, Dave and Laura Rotriga.
After receiving the shocking news, officials of Miklas Meat Market decided to designate all proceeds from sales of the store's new cookbook to the Hope for Hines fund. A number of other items are being sold at the meat market to benefit the fund; several other fundraisers are being planned in the area to aid with the youngster's medical bills.
The owners and employees of the market, located at 58 Carmel Road in Wheeling, released a spiral-bound, soft-cover volume titled "All Time Favorites Cookbook," featuring recipes from staff members and customers, prior to the recent holiday season. The business earmarked all proceeds to benefit Miklas Meat Market charities.
As shoppers began buying the cookbook for holiday giving and raving about the contents, the devastating illness struck Hines. The focus of the store's project changed immediately.
Since the redesignation of the cookbook's proceeds to Hope for Hines, the 116-page volume has been flying off the counter at the market. Mike Harasuik, a staff member and contributor of many of the delicious recipes printed in the cookbook, said that about 550 copies have been sold. Additional copies are being ordered to meet the increased demand, he said.
Sales of the first printing "really did well," Harasuik said. "We included a bunch of the staff recipes and some recipes from customers.
"We thought it would be good for Christmas gifts and to raise money for our charities. We have our own charity fund. That's why we originally brought it up," he explained. "Then poor little Hines got hit (with illness). His mother works here. His uncle is the owner. We flipped everything over to Hope for Hines."
As news of the project has spread through social media and word of mouth, sales have boomed. "We have to order more," Harasuik said.
He related that a woman, who didn't know the Rotriga family but learned of the fund drive on Facebook, shared a post about the cookbook on her Facebook page. She took orders from her friends and, within a short time, had orders for 10 copies of the cookbook. She picked up the copies to deliver to her friends Thursday morning, Harasuik said.
The cookbook's recipes are divided into seven sections: Appetizers, Relishes and Pickles; Soups, Salads and Sauces; Meats and Main Dishes; Vegetables; Breads, Rolls and Pastries; Cakes, Cookies and Desserts; and Beverages, Microwave and Miscellaneous.
Meanwhile, family, friends and even complete strangers are stepping up to help the child's cause.
The Miklas Meat Market staff also is holding a soup sale and bake sale at the store Thursday through Saturday, Jan. 23-25, to raise money for Hope for Hines.
In addition to purchasing "All Time Favorites Cookbook" at the meat market, customers can buy other items to aid the campaign. Wheeling artist Joyce Patterson Schultze has donated 100 prints of her painting depicting the Market Plaza in downtown Wheeling, Harasuik said. The prints, serialized and signed by the artist, are available for purchase at Miklas Meat Market.
Little Caesars Pizza kits and Sarris candy bars also are being sold at the Miklas shop and at K.E.Y. Animal Hospital in Wheeling and by individual volunteers for Hope for Hines. Organizers said the deadline to submit an order for pizza kits is Wednesday, Feb. 5; delivery is expected around Friday, Feb. 14.
Hope for Hines necklaces are being sold by Tracy Bringman-Kiaski. Handmade tags and cards are available at the Clothes Collection in Wheeling, courtesy of Joelle Oliver.
Upcoming Hope for Hines events include a benefit at Lansing Community Center at 4 p.m. Saturday, March 8; a benefit at Generations in Wheeling at 1 p.m. Sunday, April 13; a band blast at River City in Wheeling Saturday, April 19, and an event at Quaker Steak and Lube at The Highlands from noon to 6 p.m. Sunday, April 27.
Monetary donations can be made at any WesBanco Bank branch for the Hope for Hines account. Contributions can also be made through PayPal. Cards, packages, and donations can be sent to Hope for Hines, in care of Miklas Meat Market, 58 Carmel Road, Wheeling, WV 26003.