In 2009, the small community of Garrettsville, Ohio, lost a precious, bright young fourth grader named Melana Matson to a horrible disease called Diffused Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG).  This disease is an incurable and inoperable brain stem tumor that is located in the pons section of the brain.  Prognosis is 9 to 12 months to live when the tumor is in the pons.  So basically, children with this disease are given a death sentence.  It is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in young people.

While Melana was undergoing treatment, her grandparents, Garrettsville residents Joyce and Norm Fashing, realized how grossly under-funded research has been for children’s glioma cancer and that there had been NO SIGNIFICANT RESEARCH towards finding a cure for this devastating disease in decades.   After Melana’s death, Joyce and Norm looked back at what an impact Melana had on the community, teaching us all lessons of courage, perseverance, and inspiration.  They decided to form the Friends of Melana Foundation.  They wanted to do something that could carry on Melana’s  legacy, give hope to others, and find a way to support research and awareness, so that someday there might be a cure for this deadly disease.

melana-matson-friends-of-melanaSo, the Friends of Melana partnered with the Cleveland-based Prayers from Maria Children’s Glioma Cancer Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit foundation, donations to which are tax deductible.  The two groups work together to raise awareness of this most deadly childhood disease as well as raise money for funding research, so that someday there might be a cure.  Friends of Melana hosts annual events such as the 5k race and 1 mile fun walk/run held during the Garrettsville’s Summerfest, and an annual mystery dinner held in the fall.  Through their fund-raising efforts and with the help of  local business and individual donations, the Friends of Melana group has raised over $40,000 in research funds in the first three years of operation.

Since  joining forces with the Prayers for Maria Foundation, the foundation’s medical board has been able to award two $100,000 research grants, one to Boston Hospital for Children and the other to Cleveland MetroHealth Medical Center, almost in our backyard.  The foundations  are very pleased to report that the Boston group has been MAKING GREAT STRIDES, now being able to biopsy glioma tumors; thus allowing doctors to prescribe medications that they hope will at least stabilize glioma tumors.  The MetroHealth group used their preliminary research data to apply for and receive a $3.3 million continuation grant from the National  Institute of Health.  The foundation’s medical board is now very close to being able to award a third grant for research for the killer disease….in the amount of $250,000.

The Friends of Melana Foundation is comprised of people from the local community who are committed to this cause.  The foundation is ALWAYS IN NEED of more “friends”.  They would like  to extend an invitation to anyone willing to help  spread awareness, help raise research funds for new treatments and an eventual cure.  ALL FOUNDATION MEMBERS ARE VOLUNTEERS and all proceeds from their fund-raising events and donations go towards research.

Anyone wishing  to join them in their efforts,  please contact Norm and Joyce Fashing at 330-527-8093.  They ask only that you give as much time to the cause as you can spare.

Donations can be sent to:  The Friends of Melana

P.O. Box 204

Garrettsville, Ohio 44231