#MissionMonday: Damian

 In Family Story, Mission Monday, Our Mission

banner graphic_mission monday blog_DamianDamian is an adorable and outgoing 3-year-old boy who was originally diagnosed with Retinoblastoma, a rare cancer of the eye, when he was less than a year old. Despite enormous efforts on the part of his parents and his treatment team at Miami Children’s Hospital, Damian’s cancer continues to spread. Family Reach has worked closely with Damian’s social worker to ensure that he and his family have the resources they need while he fights this aggressive form of cancer.

Damian lives in Naples, Florida with his parents, Sarah and Ron, who are retired from the military. He has one older brother, who is currently overseas and in active duty with the Navy. Prior to Damian’s cancer diagnosis in 2014, both of his parents worked full time. Due to Damian’s young age and his aggressive treatment protocol, Sarah had to stop working almost immediately. This reduction to only one income, in conjunction with the high costs associated with Damian’s treatment, were extremely difficult for Sarah and Ron to manage. They quickly turned to friends, family and their community for support. During Damian’s first year of treatment, the outpouring of generosity and support from their community made it possible for Sarah and Ron to pay their household expenses while providing their son with the best cancer care and support.

Unfortunately, Damian’s cancer continued to progress at an alarming speed. In July of 2015, Damian had his left eye removed. This was extremely difficult for his family. A short time later it was discovered that Damian’s cancer had spread to his brain. A new regiment of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation began almost immediately. The extended period of treatment started to take its toll on the family financially. Funds raised through their community were nearly depleted and Ron’s job as a painter was becoming less reliable. Damian’s social worker at Miami Children’s Hospital began searching for resources to help.

Damian’s treatment team recommended that he relocate to Jacksonville for 8 weeks to undergo Proton Beam Radiation therapy. Sarah reached out to various resources for assistance with the cost of relocating. Unfortunately, they were unable to help Damian and his family. Desperate to get her son to treatment, Sarah borrowed over $3,000 from a relative towards the cost of relocating for 8 weeks. However, his parents were still concerned, as the additional costs of travel and treatment away from home would leave no money to pay the family’s rent, utilities and monthly car payment, putting their ability to transport Damian to and from treatment at risk.

Family Reach stepped in to immediately pay for the family’s household expenses. Funds were sent to the family’s landlord, utility carriers and bank within the week. Ron and Sarah were overwhelmed with relief. Because of generous funding from the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation, Family Reach was able to provide a grant for $1,972.06 to cover the monthly costs of rent, utilities and car payments for Damian’s family, allowing Sarah and Ron to focus all of their energy on their son.