tampabay.com

Local firm's unique aid is a nice pill to swallow

By ERNEST HOOPER
Published September 16, 2005


Not a day goes by that someone doesn't contact the newspaper about a Hurricane Katrina relief effort.

Everyone wants to help.

Of all the efforts, however, one of the most unique may be a seven-figure offer from Tampa's Romark Laboratories. The pharmaceutical company will donate up to $1-million worth of its gastrointestinal, anti-infective drug Alinia to public health authorities in the gulf states.

Folks sometimes joke about diarrhea, but it's a serious concern in disaster situations. The kind of infectious diarrhea caused by the parasite cryptosporidium can last up to four weeks and cause severe abdominal pain. Alinia is the only FDA-approved treatment for cryptosporidium, and according to Romark, cryptosporidium is usually found in 67 to 98 percent of surface water.

The last thing you need after enduring such a tragedy is to get sick.

"These diseases can be particularly devastating for those who are already suffering from a great loss," said Jean-Francois Rossignol, chairman and chief sciences officer for Romark.

Rossignol, a French-born research scientist, teamed with investment banker Marc Ayers in 1993 to form Romark. The company's offices are next to the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay on the Courtney Campbell Causeway.

Tim Young built quite a reputation as an over-the-top tailgating Bucs fan in the past 16 years.

Young drives from his home in Atlanta to every Bucs home game to join his Captain and the Crew cohorts, who dress in full pirate gear. His pregame activities typically involve pirate ship replicas, gas-powered blenders, tents and trailers. Young, who grew up in Clearwater, also has won a number of tailgating championships. This year, Campbell's Chunky Chili honored Young's group as the best tailgaters in Tampa Bay.

Now the Captain and the Crew is drawing attention for having a big heart. In the wake of Katrina, Young and his crew, which totals more than 200 people, have "adopted" 75 fans, placing 65 in homes and employing four of them. The Saints fans, who are friends and family of one of Young's co-workers, are all New Orleans residents.

The effort isn't totally surprising when you consider that in past years, the group has raised money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Kudos to the Blake High arts students, who raised more than $2,000 for Katrina relief during a benefit Tuesday night.

The school pulled together the effort in less than a week. It featured music, dance, creative writing, film and drama. Fine arts students also auctioned pieces to help raise funds.

Tampa firefighters offered help to some local folks Thursday.

The department recognized that three recent fires occurred in the same east Tampa neighborhood: Two people died in a June 24 fire at 4406 Booker T. Drive; an elderly man lost his wife in a home fire at 2909 E 17th Ave.; and an infant died in a Sept. 9 fire at 3309 E Chelsea St.

On Thursday, the firefighters canvassed the neighborhood, offering to inspect fire alarms, provide replacement batteries and install new fire alarms when requested. The department also made free inspections when asked.

"Fire injuries tend to happen to the young and to the mobility impaired. That was the case with these three fires," said Tampa Fire Rescue Capt. Bill Wade. "We know we can't save the world, but we can go door to door and try to help."

Inspectors contacted 24 of the 47 homes targeted, installed 14 smoke alarms and inspected nine other smoke alarms that were functioning, he said. At the other homes, they gave people safety literature.

"In the past, we've said here's a smoke alarm, put it up," Wade said. "We didn't want that happening this time. If the residents invited us to give them a smoke alarm, we said we would like to put it up. At least we know that for the next year or so, we've helped protect that family."

Of course, the fire department can't make this kind of effort every day, but if one life is saved, it'll be worth it.

That's all I'm saying.

Ernest Hooper can be reached at 813 226-3406 or Hooper@sptimes.com