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Community raising awareness, funds for childhood illness

CANFIELD — The Emerald Court cul-de-sac in Canfield was bustling with activity on Saturday.

The community had come together to raise funds and awareness in the battle over DMG, diffuse midline glioma, that claims the lives of roughly 300 children every year, and claimed one young girl’s life recently.

Melina Michelle Edenfield, 4, daughter of Michelle and Keith Edenfield, “gained her angel wings” after battling DMG for over two months.

Melina spent May 16, 2020 playing and swimming at the next door neighbor’s pool after a morning of running and bicycling in the neighborhood. The next morning, she threw up and everyone thought it was the stomach flu. By midweek, she started throwing up again and complained of a headache.

On May 22, she was rushed to Akron Children’s Hospital in Boardman.

After doctors did a CT scan that showed a ventricular swelling, she was sent to the main campus in Akron. Had the family brought her in two days earlier, doctors said the swelling would have likely not shown up yet.

In Akron, it was discovered that Melina’s brain ventricles, responsible for draining fluid from the brain, were blocked. After an MRI, a tumor was located in the brain stem.

Melina lost her balance, and had problems with speech and vision, and trouble swallowing. Melina was placed on steroids and on June 15 started radiation treatments. She completed two treatments before becoming unresponsive, and was placed in pediatric intensive care where she continued to worsen.

On June 24, one month and two days after the initial diagnosis, Melina died.

“In her four-and-a-half years, Melina’s passion and competitive spirit was exemplified in the way that she attacked everything she did,” said her father, Keith. “From T-Ball, to dance class, swimming, or playing the games ‘Guess Who’ and ‘Old Maid,’ she poured her heart into each day that she lived. But more than anything, the way that she loved and exuded joy could be found in the relationship she shared with big sisters, Klara (8), and Emilea (6), who she adored. During her brief illness, when she was away from Klara and Emilea, every Facetime chat started with one statement, ‘I want to talk to my sisters.'”

As a way to honor Melina’s young life, the family decided to create the Melina Michelle Edenfield Foundation to raise funds to research and fight DMG.

“If this foundation can save one child, then it will have been worth it all,” Keith said.

On Saturday, a big kickoff took place on Emerald Court, where family, neighbors and friends came together to show support and help raise funds for the newly established foundation. Many wore face masks that were rainbow colored or Cheetah prints, which Melina used to refer to as “Cheetoh.”

The event also was attended by 10 children from the neighborhood. They were ages 2 through 11, and were all kids who played with Melina almost daily. They wanted to come together and do something nice, and since Melina brought them joy, they decided to call themselves “the Joy team” and they wore special team T-shirts on Saturday.

“To be from a small town like this and see all this come together is amazing,” Melina’s mom, Michelle said.

Both Michelle and Keith were grateful after seeing donations of over $100,000 prior to the start of Saturday’s event.

Helping head up Saturday’s event were neighbors Erin Gerhardstein and Beth Lopata.

“We put all of Melina’s joy into this little tent,” Beth said.

Even Melina’s sister Klara, 8, felt the positive flow of the day as she spoke about her time with Melina.

“I loved to play with her,” Klara said. “She was fun to be around.”

Six-year-old sister Emilea added, “I loved to play on the trampoline with her. We was BFFs.”

The Melina Michelle Edenfield Foundation was established in her memory and all proceeds from donations will go directly into research to find a cure for DMG. Donations can be mailed to: The Melina Michelle Edenfield Foundation, P.O.Box 34, Canfield, OH, 44406. More information can be found on the foundation’s Facebook page: facebook.com/The-Melina-Michelle-Edenfield-Foundation.

jtwhitehouse@tribtoday.com

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