Thirteen-year-old Ben O'Daniel lives with his family in a charming green house on Pioneer Avenue in downtown Kent. This summer Ben was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL) and is currently undergoing treatment which has already included 7 blood transfusions, 2 spinal taps and 3 rounds of chemo. He is likely to miss the entire first semester of school this fall and will continue chemotherapy for the next three years.
August 26 was the date of the annual Pioneer Avenue Block Party and the street was full of children drawing with chalk, playing basketball, chasing each other with water guns and hula hooping. This year, the event became a fundraiser for the O'Daniel family initiated by four neighborhood women; Jenn Weitzel, Barb Barkley, Joelle Leidtke and Michele Ferrara. The activities included the Pioneer-Prospect-Pearl-Park Penny War, a 50/50 raffle and a bake sale as well as the profits from the child led intiative of necklace sales.
Prior to the block party, a letter was sent to all neighbors introducing the effort and expressing the immediate need of funds to purchase an iPad for Ben. This goal has been met and currently the group is working on meals and gas cards for Ben's doctor visit days. According to Michele Ferrara's initial letter to neighbors, "When we asked Beth (Ben's mom) what they needed, she simply asked that cards or pictures be sent or dropped off to Ben. This seems pretty simple, but in terms of keeping his spirits up, it's probably the most important! She also said that she needed our good thoughts and prayers. Again, this was another pretty simple request given their situation."
Although Ben remained in his home during the block party because his white blood count was too low, children raced through his yard chasing his older brother with water guns and water balloons. Signs decorated his home thanking the neighborhood for their support and his mother Beth stood in the front yard talking with neighbors and encouraging the younger children to stand up to the older boys in the water gun fight.
Block parties celebrate community and mark the end of summer but on this magical day in downtown Kent, the strength of community and the power of connection were shining through.
If you would like to send Ben a card ....
Ben O'Daniel 545 Pioneer Avenue Kent , OH 44240