Joseph Sullivan, who can move his head and fingers but little else, was all but bedridden this summer because his 69-year-old adoptive mother is disabled from two strokes and home health care was cut off when he lost Medicaid coverage. The Medicaid money ended when the boy's survivor benefits from his father's death increased his income $13 over the agency's $599 monthly limit.
Without Medicaid, the Sullivans couldn't afford the $190 weekly cost of home health care to keep Joseph bathed and dressed so he could leave the house and eventually return to school.
After hearing about Joseph's ordeal from a dentist in nearby Tuscaloosa, Cher mailed $550 for two weeks of home health care, with hopes that it would inspire others to pitch in, too.
"I've worked with children's charities for a number of years and it just sent up flags for me," said the dentist, Dr. Tony Davis, who said he met Cher while working with the Children's Cranial Facial Association (search).
The pop star has been the group's honorary spokeswoman since 1985, when her role in the movie "Mask" sparked her interest in helping children with facial deformities.
Cher's donation returned Sullivan's home health care, and the Area Agency on Aging for West Alabama is providing $1,200 from money used to give a break to caretakers over 60.
"It's great, isn't it? Shows there's still some good people in this world," said Joseph's mom, Betty Sullivan, a big fan of Cher in the '70s.
Joseph's attorney, Jennifer Lav, said the donations from Cher and the Agency on Aging will cover home health services through October. The family also has received other donations totaling about $450.
"So Joseph is going to be able to start school, and that's a very important thing right now," said Lav, a lawyer at the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Programs.
But Lav worries that the donations are a short-term solution and she hasn't found a way to restore Sullivan's Medicaid. She is awaiting a response to her request for an administrative hearing on his case.