Paw Paw family raising money to give 4-year-old son a new ear

Austin Collins.jpg
4-year-old Austin Collins of Paw Paw is hoping to undergo a procedure to reconstruct his right ear which was underdeveloped at birth due to microtia. (WWMT/Jorge Rodas)

The family of a 4-year-old Paw Paw boy is praying for an Earicle.

Austin Collins was born with a birth defect that leaves the outer ear underdeveloped, known in the medical community as microtia.

Austin spent Wednesday morning in a red sweater playing cards and board games with Pam Collins, his mother, and Caitlyn Collins his big sister.

"I picked red," he said while playing.

Red is his favorite color.

His parents are raising money to pay for a procedure to reconstruct his right ear with the help of a porous polyethylene implant though a nonprofit called Earicles that helps children with microtia treatment.

The Collins family has taken that name and turned in into their cause saying they're fighting for Austin's Earicle and that 2020 is the Year of the Ear.

"I want my son to have the best life and I will do whatever it takes to get him to the place that we need to be," Pam Collins said.

She said the place they need to be is in California at Dr. Sheryl Lewin's practice, because Lewin has agreed to reconstruct Austin's ear.

The Collins' said they're on the hook for the entire cost since their health insurance provider said the procedure is cosmetic and not covered.

"They replied back in 10 minutes and said that the claim and the procedure would be denied," Roy Collins, Austin's father, said.

Pam said they had to figure out a way to raise $60,000 for the cost of the procedure.

So far, the family has raised more than $13,000 through an online campaign and a soda can tab collection effort.

Michigan State Police Trooper Lena Wileczek helped the effort collecting tabs and delivering them to the family's home after her long 12-hour shifts.

"Feeling very blessed to have so many people wanting to help champion the big ear," Roy Collins said.

He and his wife fear Austin will face bullying and negative attention when he starts going to school if he doesn't have the procedure done.

"Someone a long time ago called my ear gross," Austin said.

His sister said she serves as her little brother's protector on the school bus in the morning.

"He's a tough little guy, but sometimes," Caitlyn Collins said.

She said she's hoping the procedure takes place and gives her brother more confidence.

"When I'm not there he won't have to explain why he has a little ear," she said.

The family said they will not give up raising money for their son what they say they hope to be his big ear.

"We just keep reaching out to people and just hoping that we can get there and we want this to be his year of the ear," Pam Collins said. "We're going to get his big ear this year."