EDISON, NJ - On Thursday, October 3, St. Thomas Aquinas High School will hold its annual Ahr Star Spaghetti Dinner. This year, the dinner will honor two eight-year-old boys facing tough pysical battles since birth, Milltown's Andrew Yarus and Fords' Elijah Patino. Yarus has been diagnosed with a rare chromosome deletion and eosinophilic esophagitis which is a rare inflammatory disease that makes eating extremely difficult. The youngster also faces neurological issues. Patino was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disorder that makes his body's white blood cells turn on his organs. Both boys and their families have faced many challenges during their young lives.

The Ahr Star Program has been part of St. Thomas Aquinas High School for the past 32 years. The school, which was formerly known as Bishop Ahr, began the program when Father John Murphy had a terminally ill child in his parish. Murphy not only wanted to help the child and his family financially but with emotional support. The program became more active in its fundraising endeavors when a student was diagnosed with leukemia near the end of his junior year in 1997. Since then the program continues to grow in scope and has expanded its Ahr Star families each year. This year the Yarus and Patino families will join the Ahr Star community.

Each year a child is nominated for the Ahr Star Program by a St. Thomas parent, alumnus, student or teacher. A nomination can also come from someone who is familiar with the Ahr Star Program and what it does to support a chronically ill or terminal child and his or her family. Afterwards the administration and the school's Ahr Star Moderator choose a recipient. Sister Cynthia Marie Babyak serves as the program's moderator and this year two children were chosen.

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Throughout the year, the Yarus and Patino along with their families receive support in various ways from the St. Thomas community. From Halloween cards to an edible arrangement on Thanksgiving to holiday gifts, the kids and their families feel the love and support from the school and its students. Various fundraisers are held all year long. The families receive a picture memory book and a check at the conclusion of the school year.

The October 3 spaghetti dinner is the largest annual fundraiser for the Ahr Star Program. Serving begins at 4:30 p.m. and continues through 6:30 p.m. at the St. Thomas Aquinas Cafeteria. The cost is $10 for adults, $7 for students and $4 for children under 12. Tickets are sold at the door, but Sister Cynthia asks that participants call ahead and pay for the tickets at the door to ensure there is enough food for all. Tickets can be reserved by calling 732-549-1108 extension 648.

The St. Thomas Aquinas Caferteria is located at One Tingley Lane in Edison.