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Canfield chooses joy

School opens memorial garden

Submitted photo Students from Hilltop Elementary enjoy time Friday in a new garden in the outside classroom at the school. The colorful garden is in memory of Melina Edenfield, 4, who died last year after a brain tumor diagnosis. Students around the district wore gray shirts Friday in her honor.

CANFIELD — One year ago today, the Edenfield family received the hardest news: Melina, 4, had a brain tumor.

Within 32 days, she died in her mother Michelle’s arms of a type of cancer on the brain stem. She left behind parents Michelle and Keith, and sisters, Emilea and Kara.

Today, the Melina Michelle Edenfield Foundation is on a mission for a cure. Since its inception, the nonprofit has raised $220,000. Of that amount, $150,000 has been donated to a fund at Akron Children’s Hospital for brain tumor research.

“One thing we learned, and we were shocked by, is how underfunded pediatric cancer and brain tumors are,” Keith said. Roughly 4 percent of all cancer research funding goes to pediatric cancer, with 1 percent of that amount toward brain tumors, he added.

On Friday, it was Gray Day in Canfield for Melina. The school district donned gray shirts with the words “Choose Joy for Melina.”

Gray is the color for Brain Cancer Awareness Month, which is May.

Students took part in making a memorial garden, which was unveiled and celebrated with the district Friday. There are 600 pinwheels, colorful rocks painted by students and a donated steel sign in Melina’s honor.

MEMORIES

Melina succeeded at whatever she set out to do.

When she was 2, Melina told Michelle she was going to go swimming — without her floaties. “She did it,” Michelle said.

Keith remembers Melina’s “silly but also extremely thoughtful and empathetic” personality. “If asked, (Melina) would say her favorite color was green … and every color of the rainbow,” he said.

“Every day, I say I will always fight to find joy,” just as Melina did, Michelle said.

Patients diagnosed with Melina’s type of tumor typically live six to 12 months. The only treatment is radiation with the hopes to shrink the tumor, Michelle said.

Melina’s team of doctors said her case was the most aggressive form they’d ever seen, Michelle said. Her family said she didn’t have pain, but her condition rapidly deteriorated over the short weeks of her illness.

The last week of Melina’s life, her family told her they wanted to start a foundation to help other kids. Unable to talk, she squeezed “yes,” Michelle said.

An upcoming “Bike and Bounce” event with Pure Cycle and Mega Barre Youngstown will benefit the organization. Beginning at 9 a.m. on June 6, various class times will take place. Visit www.bikeandbounceformelina.com to register or donate. There is a minimum $20 donation to participate.

Donations to the Melina Edenfield Foundation can be made by visiting the nonprofit’s website, mmefoundationjoy.org, or by mailing checks to The Melina Michelle Edenfield Foundation, P.O. Box 34, Canfield, OH, 44406.

DON’T BE SAD

As the family and community come to terms with loss of Melina, they try to remember not to be sad, Michelle said — because that’s not what Melina would want.

Sisters Klara and Emilea are doing “amazing,” Michelle said.

“We still experience ups and downs day by day or even moment by moment at times,” Keith said.

One factor in the family’s success is the support, ranging from family and friends to the community.

“We call our neighborhood ‘Melina’s Lifers,’ because Melina was in it for life,” Michelle said.

She had 10 best friends in the neighborhood, who all play together.

Keith, a principal in Lisbon, has had the “tremendous” support of the community rallying around him and the Edenfield family, Michelle said.

“They are surreal down there. The community response has been phenomenal,” she said.

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