By Denise Dick
Quentin Laret is a typical 5-year-old with the exception of a tumor that wraps around his head and the nine major surgeries and several medical procedures he’s undergone in his young life.
Quentin, the youngest son of Mahoning Valley natives Matthew and Kim Laret, suffers from Neurofibromatosis Type 1, a disease similar to that of Ed Port of Austintown. Port’s is NF Type 2.
“Quentin has a plexiform tumor wrapped all around the one side of his face and the back of his head,” Kim said. “His is a bigger issue than most. It’s wrapped around everything like a spider web.”
Plexiform tumors form along nerves.
The family lives in Pataskala, Ohio, southeast of Columbus, where Matthew is a teacher and Kim operates an in-home child-care center.
From noon to 5 p.m. March 17, the Knights of Columbus Monsignor Mears Council No. 3930 will host a pasta dinner fundraiser at St. Brendan’s Parish social hall in Youngstown for the family.
The idea was proposed by Marie Newhouse, a close friend of the family’s and a member of the church.
Tony Velasco of the Knights Council met the family several months ago when they were in town. Kim and Matthew have family and close friends still living in the Valley.
Both attended grade school at the former St. Brendan School in Youngstown, and Kim is a graduate of Austintown Fitch while Matthew graduated from Chaney. Their oldest son, Brendan, 7, was named for the school and church. Brendan doesn’t have NF.
“I was just overwhelmed with Quentin for such spirit and energy for all of the problems he has,” Velasco said.
The family’s story touched him.
“I do get emotional sometimes when I talk about him,” Velasco said. “I just don’t understand why it has to be a child, but I know that’s not for me to ask.”
Other K of C councils have been invited to participate in the fundraiser, too. Many individuals have pitched in to help.
“The Youngstown community is a very giving community,” Velasco said. “I just think when it’s a child, they really rally around them.”
The same Knights council conducted a fundraiser for Port a few years ago. The Laret family follows Port on Facebook and watched the TLC documentary on his surgery. While Port’s and Quentin’s conditions present themselves somewhat differently, Laret said her son resembles Port.
Matthew also has NF 1 and underwent surgeries as a boy. Some smaller tumors remain, but for the most part, his disease isn’t as problematic.
Quentin was diagnosed at 18 months. He’s undergone major and invasive surgeries to remove the tumors although they return, which is typical for the disease.
“Every time he goes through a growth spurt or anything like that, we have to watch,” Kim Laret said.
The most recent surgery was in August when doctors removed the nerve the tumor adhered to. Another surgery is expected for a nerve transplant. When NF patients reach their 20s, the tumor growth often levels off, and that’s what the family is hoping will happen for Quentin.
Despite all of his health problems, his mother says that Quentin is an active little guy.
“He truly is amazing,” she said.
His parents have talked with teachers at his school to explain their son’s disease, so that other children will understand it was well.
Still, he gets a lot of looks from people who don’t know him.
“When he was younger he didn’t notice it, but I did,” Kim said. “Now he’s starting to notice it.”
Kim has talked a lot about Quentin’s disease to increase understanding and awareness in her community.
“The community has been awesome about it,” she said.
Quentin got a trip to Disney World through Make a Wish, an organization that grants wishes to children with life-threatening illnesses or conditions.
Matthew’s health insurance through his employer as well as the Bureau of Children with Medical Handicaps helps cover the costs of Quentin’s surgeries, but Kim often has to take off work to care for her son.
That’s why the fundraiser will be a help, and Kim says the family is grateful for the outpouring of support.
“This thing isn’t going to solve their problems, but hopefully, financially, it does help them,” Velasco said.