CANFIELD — The Edenfield family continues to choose joy. They will do it again with the third annual Choose Joy for Melina fundraiser from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at Canfield Green in aid of pediatric brain cancer research.
Sponsored by the Melina Michelle Edenfield Foundation, the joy will include bouncing houses, balloon animals, magic, face painting, kids’ yoga, music, DJ, photo booth, Melina’s Craft Corner, table gifts and raffle baskets for prizes including a trampoline, bikes, keyboard, American Girl doll and playsets.
The namesake of the event was 4.5 years old when she died on June 24, 2020, just 32 days after being diagnosed with a diffuse midline glioma, which was inoperable and “the most aggressive brain tumor doctors have ever seen”, Melina’s mother, Michelle, said.
“Melina taught me in life that I can’t stop bad things from happening and I can’t change my situation,” said Michelle Edenfield. “The only thing I can do is respond. Melina chose joy every day of her life, even when she was sick. As hard as it can be at times, we will always find and choose joy.
“The only good that can come from this terrible tragedy is trying to help others. That is why we created the foundation,” she says.
But perhaps the coolest part of the fundraiser is that it was started by a group of kids. The Choose Joy fundraiser is led by Team Joy – Melina’s two older sisters, Klara and Emilea, and eight neighbor playmates, Kaylee and Karissa Hensdill, Addison and Jack Lopatta, Meila Hofus and Mollie, Jackson and Presley Gerhardstein.
“The Choose Joy event will always be special to me and her sisters because it was started by her ‘best friends’, her sisters and friends from her neighborhood. They were kids who wanted to make a difference – and they are. », said Edenfield.
Proceeds from Choose Joy and three other annual fundraisers – a virtual 5K, an evening of joy and a golf outing – go directly to funding pediatric brain tumor research for a cure through the Melina Foundation. Michelle Edenfield.
Foundation volunteer Jennifer Parker said, “Locally, we donated $200,000 to Akron Children’s Hospital to start a research fund in Melina’s name. This is to help strengthen their brain tumor tissue donation program and help them become a leading pediatric brain tumor research hospital.
“We have partnered and donated over $200,000 to two international organizations dedicated to finding a cure for pediatric brain tumours: the DIPG Collaboration and the CONNECT Consortium,” Parker said. “By pooling funds from many foundations, these organizations are able to fund the latest advances in research and development of cutting-edge medical treatments and technologies.
“One of the goals of The Connect consortium is to improve communications and research sharing between research hospitals around the world. At some point, at this time, it may allow a child to participate in a local clinical trial that may be sponsored by a research hospital in another state or country. It would be a huge step forward in reducing stress and costs for a family that is already suffering tremendously with a very sick child.” Parker said.
“Research is exactly what the medical community needs,” Dr. Erin Wright, pediatric neurologist
oncologist at Akron Children’s Hospital who treated Melina, said earlier this year. “There has been a lot of research over the past two decades and we are still trying to find a better and more effective treatment.”
Brain tumors, including diffuse midline glioma, are the leading cause of death in childhood cancer. Treatment for brain tumors varies and includes surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, depending on each individual case, Wright said.
In Melina’s case, the hope of radiotherapy prolonging her limited prognosis had no chance in the face of the aggressiveness of the tumour.
The general incidence of brain tumors has remained the same over the past few decades, with 4,000 children diagnosed each year in the United States. Wright said she sees 30 cases of pediatric brain tumors a year at Akron Children’s Hospital.
Born on November 15, 2015 to Keith and Michelle Edenfield of Canfield, Melina was the youngest of three daughters. The family said her passion and competitive spirit showed in everything she did, from T-ball and dancing to swimming and games. “Guess who” and “Old girl.”
Melina’s favorite color was “green and all the colors of the rainbow.” She loved all things leopard print – which she called “Cheeto” print for Cheetos cheetah. On Saturday, Rainbows and Cheetos will be everywhere.
The family said Melina constantly served as an example of what it was like to live with grace, strength and joy. “Throughout her illness, Melina wanted us all to choose joy over sadness.”
His spirit is alive and well, said Michelle Edenfield.
“She is my granddaughter, and she can never be taken from me and my family, even in death,” said Edenfield. “We look for these miracles every day and truly believe that Melina is with us. We see the messages every day – the rainbows that don’t belong, the green dots – her favorite color was green, as well as all the colors of the rainbow – in family photos, the strength to carry on, when we shouldn’t have this strength, and many others.
“Melina has been our miracle for 4 and a half years, and through our foundation, we hope she can be the miracle for other families forever,” said Edenfield. “Choose joy.”
If you are going to …
What: Choose Joy for Melina
When: 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday
Where: The Green in Canfield on US Route 62 to US Route 224
Information: Melina Michelle Edenfield Foundation, PO Box 34, Canfield 44406; mmefoundationjoy.org