In a strong showing of solidarity, members of a local church planned a fundraising endeavor to help chip away at a 12-year-old girl’s medical expenses.

The congregation of Mt. Carmel Baptist Church hosts “A Night for Toccara” Oct. 19 at 5 p.m. in Alpine. The event consists of a benefit program for 12-year-old Toccara Ashley who received a heart transplant June 17.

“There will be different choirs coming to the church to sing during the program,” Toccara’s aunt Meredith Ashley said.

Toccara’s family lives in North Augusta, S.C., but her mother, Constance Tamiko Ashley is a native of Talladega County.

According to Ashley, Toccara needed the heart transplant after she was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy May 14.

“She had no problem until the family noticed she had swelling in her legs and feet,” Ashley said. “Her mom took her to the doctor. They ran some tests and discovered she had fluid around her heart and in her lungs. After running some more tests, they found out she had cardiomyopathy.”

Once the doctors uncovered the severity of Toccara’s condition, they placed her on the heart transplant list June 7. Ten days later, she received her transplant.

“She was put toward the top of the list for a transplant because without a new heart, she’d only have a year and a half to live,” Ashley said.

So far, Ashley estimated previous benefits held for Toccara since her journey began have yielded close to $1,000. Though very charitable, it’s a sum of money that barely scratches the surface of Toccara’s medical expenses.

“They haven’t gotten the bill for the transplant yet, but when she was in the hospital in North Augusta, they had to fly her from North Augusta to Atlanta,” Ashley said. “The total cost of more than $100,000 includes travel expenses for her to receive the transplant, medical care and prescriptions for more than 20 different medications she’s currently taking to prevent her body rejecting the heart. Some of those medications are very expensive.”

Before the program at the church, Ashley said she planned to visit some of the local businesses in the county and spread the word of Toccara’s story.

“I’m going to just go in and tell them a little about her and what she’s going through,” Ashley said. “I’d like to see if they’d be willing to help out by donating.”

As the family chips away at the mountain of debt incurred to give Toccara a second chance at life, Ashley seemed aware more benefits and more fundraisers would need to be held.

“We’ll probably have another event like this (at Mt. Carmel) next year,” Ashley said.

The support given to Toccara’s family has not gone unnoticed by Ashley.

“In South Carolina where they live, their local church has really taken hold of them and helped them out since the transplant,” Ashley said. “And the church members here were all for having this event.”

Contact Shane Dunaway at