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CANFIELD — The Melina Michelle Edenfield Foundation is hosting the second annual Choose Joy event Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Village Green, with the goal of raising funds and awareness for pediatric brain cancer research in the memory of 4-year-old Melina Edenfield.
On May 22, 2020 Melina was diagnosed with Diffuse Midline Glioma (DMG), a childhood brain tumor that has a five-year survival rate of 48.9 percent, according to the National Cancer Institute Center for Cancer Research.
On June 24, 2020, Melina succumbed to the disease.
Her mother, Michelle Edenfield, said it was “beyond shocking and horrific” to lose their daughter after only being sick for 32 days.
“The only way that my family and I could make sense of this was that she was our miracle for four and a half years and so our goal is to then make her the miracle for everybody else, to be some family's miracle for a lifetime. So we developed the foundation,” Edenfield said.
The Melina Michelle Edenfield Foundation was created in Melina’s memory and is dedicated to raising awareness and money to help find a cure for DMG and DIPG pediatric brain tumors.
“From this, I always say Melina makes us all better. I learned that we cannot control our circumstances in life. I cannot stop bad things from happening. I can only choose how I'm going to respond to them, and I have the choice to choose joy. So every day I promised Melina that we would live and we would choose her joy,” she added.
Edenfield said through this process, she learned that 4 percent of national funding for cancer research is dedicated to pediatric cancer research. Of that 4 percent, less than 1 percent goes to pediatric brain tumors. Brain cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among children in recent years, according to the National Cancer Institute Center for Cancer Research.
“When we looked at the doctors, there was nothing. They said, like, ‘There is no option. There's radiation to kind of extend her life, that might give you six to 12 months, but that's it. There's no treatment, nothing,’” Edenfield said.
In the last year, Melina Michelle Edenfield Foundation has raised $300,000. It has sponsored and donated $150,000 to Akron Children’s Hospital’s brain tumor research fund, and has joined an international collaborative with 17 other foundations to fund clinical trials.
“I will fight every day of my life for the funding and the foundation of what we're achieving. But her legacy is more than that.”
Edenfield described Melina as an energetic, cheerful child who didn’t let cancer stop her in the last month of her life.
“She played T-ball until she couldn’t. Then she rode her bike. When she couldn't ride her bike, she asked us to push her in her stroller. When she couldn't go in her stroller anymore, she asked us to put her on this giant watermelon raft and push her around the pool, and that's what we did. So we always say, ‘Melina chose to live,’” she said.
Losing Melina was devastating to not only her family, but to her friends, which inspired Melina’s 10 neighborhood friends to create “The Joy Team” and they put together the first Choose Joy event in their front yard as a tribute to Melina and a call to action to find a cure for DMG.
“As adults, we talk about ‘us’ and healing in our family and processing all of this, [but] these 11 kids played together every day and then one day their friend just didn't come back. And, you know, how do they process that? So this is for them, to honor their friend and understand,” Edenfield said.
This year, the event has expanded to The Green in Canfield, located across from Farmers National Bank, 20 S Broad St., and will host a plethora of activities, all donated to the cause, including face-painting, bounce houses, a photo booth, P.A.W.S. therapy dogs, Heroes and Tiaras princesses and superheroes, Miss Dana's Diamonds tumbling and cheerleading demonstrations, Barber Drive Beverages lemon shakes and the Canfield Fire Department.
Additionally, various items will be raffled including a 12-foot trampoline, 60-inch tree swing, kids’ scooter, four-day passes to Living Treasures, an American Girl Doll (Melody) and a skateboard.
Entry to the event is free and street parking will be available. Raffle tickets can be purchased at the event.
Edenfield said the event has truly become a community-wide undertaking.
“I would love to be able to do all of this on my own, and never have to ask anybody for anything but obviously we can't. I cannot be more grateful for the things that people have done and we see all of it,” Edenfield said. “I would love for [supporters] to be able to come on [Saturday], because that's kind of our way of giving back. We want everybody to get to experience everything crazy that Melina was, because she was a spitfire, and she gave us a lot of joy in our life.”
“I cannot believe out of such a horrific situation that I could never imagine for anybody, let alone ourselves, the amount of good that I have seen come from this is — it's beyond words. This community … I will spend the rest of my life being grateful for people that I probably haven't even met,” she added.