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Garrettsville Summerfest and Friends of Melana Giving Kids Cancer the Boot, One Step at a Time

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Garrettsville Summerfest is only two months away and all the events are coming together quite nicely.  One of the biggest events is the Friends of Melana (FOM) 5K run/walk as a fundraiser for Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG) Cancer Research.

This year, the 6th Annual Friends of Melana 5K run and 1Mile fun run/walk will take place on Sunday June 26, 2016 at 9 am in beautiful downtown Garrettsville. Registration is now open on-line at www.2016friendsofmelana5k.eventbrite.com. One can also register at the FOM booth at the festival or on race day as well. The entry fee for the 5K run is $25 and the 1 mile fun run/walk is $15.  Medals will be awarded to the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place finishers of each category. T-shirts are guaranteed to all those who register on-line by June 16, 2016. After that date, they will be available on a first come, first serve basis. More information on the race can be obtained by calling one of the two co-directors, Diana Morris (330) 931-1660 or email be4him.oh@sbcglobal.net, or Douglas Paroff at dparoff@yahoo.com  or (330) 351-3507.

In early 2009, James A. Garfield third grade student, Melana Matson was struck with the devastating disease. As the family navigated the road of cancer, they soon discovered that there was zero funding for this type of cancer, therefore zero research was being done. Not only that, but there was no definitive way to treat the disease either.  They were basically using the children who had the disease as human guinea pigs as they did trial and error type treatments on the kids, hoping one would work. For Melana’s family and many others, a cure was not to be. On October 27, 2009, Melana received her wings, leaving a devastated family and community behind.

In 2011, FOM were determined to keep Melana’s memory alive; they shifted gears from support and fundraising for the family’s medical expenses to fundraising for a cure.  The group partnered with Prayers from Maria (PFM) a larger 501(c3) group who began raising funds for research in memory of their daughter Maria McNamara. PFM began raising funds in 2007 and in 2011 FOM joined their efforts. This is what the two groups together have done for DIPG research.

*Through fundraising efforts, the two groups have worked to award grants that promote ground breaking research. They have awarded half a million dollars in research grants. In 2010, they awarded a $100,000 grant to fund the research of Dr. BingCheng Wang at Metrohealth Medical Center in Cleveland. Dr. Wang is researching how brain tumors spread and is studying a family of proteins that can stop “egg cells” in tumor cells. Dr. Wang used the $100,000 grant as “seed money” for the compilation of preliminary data. The investment has since turned into $3.3 million in grants from the National Cancer Institute, allowing Dr. Wang to continue his cutting edge research into brain tumor progression.

In 2012, the group issued a $100,000 grant to Dr. Mark Kieran at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston to support his groundbreaking research study, which is helping to develop biopsy techniques for identifying types of gliomas, including DIPG. Dr. Kieran’s research aims to target and personalize treatment for DIPG and other gliomas based on the make-up of the individual child’s tumor. In May of 2012, Dr. Kieran, working with Boston Children’s neurosurgeons Liliana Goumnerova, M.D. and R. Michael Scott, M.D., began to carry out unprecedented surgical biopsies on children newly diagnosed with DIPG. These biopsies allow researchers like Dr. Kieran to look, for the first time, within DIPG and understand why it differs so greatly from other tumors.

In 2014, the group again awarded the $250,000 Melana Matson Memorial Grant to Case Western Reserve University, Case Comprehensive Cancer Center researchers James Basilion, PhD, Efstathis Karathanasis, PhD, and John Letterio, MD, who are studying the use of nanotechnology to more effectively treat pediatric glioma brain tumors.

Therefore, whether you’re a runner or someone who just likes to walk, dust off the sneakers and help give cancer the boot by registering for the 5K run or 1 mile fun run/walk.

* Information on the grants awarded was provided by PFM Web Site, with their approval.

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Denise Bly has been a correspondent for the Weekly Villager for five years. She also does the public relations for Garrettsville Summerfest and the Garrettsville Area Chamber. In her spare time, she can be found at most local events, especially J.A. Garfield’s, high school and middle school athletic and musical events. When not out and about in the community, she can be found at home reading, sewing, cooking and spending time with her family.