YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD HEROES: Dragonfly founders bringing comfort and joy to tri-state families | Features
DEERFIELD TOWNSHIP, OH (FOX19) - Life is almost certain to have its ups and downs. Some realities of life can be hard to overcome without the love and support of family. When the Dragonfly Foundation was founded in August 2010, one of tri state's largest extended families was born.
Matt Neitzke, then age 10, was diagnosed with Stage 3A Hodgkin's Lymphoma in February 2010. Doctors found a mass the size of a baseball inside his chest. After months of intense chemotherapy and other treatments at Cincinnati's Children's Hospital, Matt's cancer went into remission. Matt's mother Christine, was blanketed by the support of her family and friends. One friend in particular, Ria Davidson, using her strong background in public relations, went out of her way to make Matt feel comfortable.
Christine remembers her friend of 20 years and consulting partner coming to Matt's aid, "Ria would make a pizza and bring it down; she was constantly getting celebrities to come visit him. All of the other kids would be looking and saying, Why aren't they coming into my room."
That is when Ria and Christine decided that these kids should not go unnoticed.
"It started with maybe we could do a toy drive or a DVD drive." Says Ria of their humble beginnings.
It did not take long for Christine and Ria to figure out that these children needed so much more.
"Children's Hospital is the most undervalued resource in our community." Ria continues, "We realized that this was something we needed to address. There were few games for the kids… laptops were very scarce. And this is a problem that goes beyond Children's Hospital. It's happening all across the country."
Ria and Christine chose the Dragonfly as the official symbol for their non-profit foundation. The Dragonfly exemplifies the virtue of living life too the fullest and symbolizes strength, survival and victory.
Right away, Christine and Ria gathered volunteers and corporate sponsors to support their new Family.
Cincinnati Bell, People's First Savings bank in Mason, Feld Entertainment and Bob Evans are just a hand full of companies on board.
While many well established cancer foundations focus on finding a cure, Dragonfly is about the care.
"In addition to helping kids smile… we are out to raise awareness about the effect cancer and blood disease has on families." Until we find a cure… we need to put more focus on the quality of life."
In one year's time the difference that the Dragonfly Foundation has made has been significant; 500 volunteers, 26 laptop computers donated with web cams, distributed more than 1000 toys, video games, DVD's and craft supplies, more than $5,000 dollars in food and gas cards, funded the $10,000 dollars bead of courage program, tickets for patients and their families to local events and held in hospital meet and greet with local and national celebrities including Nick Lachey and Vanessa Minnillo.
Ria and Christine's dedication extends beyond the families they hold dear to their hearts. Dr. John Perentesis MD FAAP at Cincinnati Children's Hospital is witness to the progress made by Dragonfly; "Cancer extracts a terrible toll on lives of our patients and their families and friends. We are focused on developing innovative new therapies to cure children and young adults with cancer and blood disorders, and our programs in new anticancer treatments and marrow transplant are among the very largest and top-ranked in the country. While our research and new therapies provide hope to pediatric cancer patients, they and their families experience great sacrifices, dislocation and challenges during treatment.
In its relatively short existence since August of 2010, the Dragonfly Foundation has had major impact on the care for our patients by partnering with our social workers and child life specialists to bring comfort and fun to the bedside on our wards and in our clinics. The foundation has touched the lives of innumerable of patients and families with visiting celebrities and in-hospital events, laptops and links to families and schools, field trip events, tickets for entertainment and sports events, development of family support amenities, new toys and books.The impact of the Dragonfly Foundation extends beyond our institution and into the community. It has rapidly sent the empowering message that individuals can help make a difference in the lives of kids and families devastated by cancer."
The next step for Ria and Christine is take this formula of comfort and joy to hospitals across the country and even across the pond, "Our next stops include Dayton, Columbus, Indianapolis and Atlanta. We've already had interest from Los Angeles, Wisconsin, and Israel." Ria says with a proud grin.
Talks of the first program to go nationwide would allow children to Skype their families.
An idea that started with young Matt, now 11 years-old brings a smile to his face," This is great! It's really amazing."
Ria and Christine both agree that it doesn't take a lot for them to do the work, because it doesn't feel like work, "We were born to do this… all of our life experiences have led up to this moment."
Dragonfly's next big public event is a custom-designed scavenger hunt on September 10 that will last approximately three hours with a celebratory after party and fundraiser at The Sandbar immediately following. All ages are welcome to participate!
You can get more information on the Dragonfly Foundation and how to donate by going to http://www.thedragonflyfoundation.org/index.html and make sure to "Like" Dragonfly on Facebook!
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