AUSTINTOWN — Local Relay for Life Team M&M The Flamingo Mafia and the Ice House Inn come together to host a family-friendly event on September 19 to raise money for the families of two children from the region who are battling cancer. Dozens of companies, entertainers and volunteers have signed up to help.
The Family Fun Day lasts all day and features live bands, comedians, food vendors, an auction, kids activities (dunk tank, bounce house, etc.) and more.
The opening hours are from 12:00 to 21:00. Tickets are $10 for general admission and $5 for children 12 and under. There is no entrance fee for children under 3 years old.
Advance tickets are available at the Ice House Inn, 5516 W. Webb Road, Austintown, or by calling Rosa at 330-559-0465. Tickets will also be available at the door on the day of the event.
Nora Sabella, 7, and Joey Gaskell, 4, each underwent rigorous treatments after their initial diagnosis, only for their families to later learn that they were both having relapses.
“So many of us have personally experienced the devastating impact of cancer on families. It’s unimaginable that these families are going through everything they’ve already been through – to face it all again,” said Tracy Greene, Team Flamingo Mafia member and spokesperson.
“In any case, our team wanted to do something to help. One way is to try to lighten some of the financial burden, if we can, so they can focus on caring for their children and for each other.”
Nora, a St. Charles School student, lives in Boardman with her mother and father, Jeff and Amy Sabella, her big sister, Nina Sabella, and Pickles the dog. She is battling a recurrent neuroblastoma.
She was first diagnosed with stage 4, high-risk neuroblastoma on January 29, 2018. She underwent six cycles of chemotherapy, a stem cell transplant, 12 radiation treatments, six courses of immunotherapy, and many surgeries at Akron Children’s Hospital. She ended first-line treatment on March 24, 2019.
Nora immediately started a vaccine trial at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. After nearly two years of research, a lesion was found in Nora’s abdomen during routine scans.
On November 23, 2020, Nora had a second tumor resection surgery and the family was devastated to learn she was having a relapse. Although the lesion was small, it was attached to her renal artery and renal vein, making it impossible to remove 100 percent. Nora began chemotherapy and immunotherapy the following week.
By April of this year she had completed five cycles and there is still a small spot of subtle growth visible. So Nora began intensive chemotherapy treatment on April 28. The second day, she responded to one of the chemotherapy drugs and coded it after she stopped responding. But the toxicity was quickly reversed with medication.
Another cycle of intense chemotherapy followed. Scans showed no change and surgery was decided. This surgery was originally intended to remove her kidney, but the surgeon was able to remove the tumor and save the organ.
After a two-week recovery, Nora began her third cycle of intensive chemotherapy combined with radiation. The scans are scheduled for four weeks after her last radiation treatment.
Nora said she hopes the “bad guy is gone” and she will be considered in remission. With remission comes another year of treatment at Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York City for a vaccine trial process that will take about a year to complete. The family will have to travel to NYC up to 10 times that year. The vaccine trial is intended to help her body learn to fight the neuroblastoma on its own.
Joey lives in Austintown and is the son of Todd and Jessica Gaskell. He didn’t go to school, but hopes to start this year.
He was diagnosed with pre-B cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia in October 2018 at just 18 months old. His first treatment was supposed to last about two years, but two weeks before the end of his treatment it was discovered that he had a relapse in his central nervous system.
Joey is currently back in remission after an intensive first month of relapse treatment, followed by four months of frequent hospitalizations, clinic visits for chemo and transfusions.
His current treatment plan for relapse will consist of intensive chemo and radiation for about a year and a half with many hospitalizations.
“We hope the community gives these children, these families, the support they desperately need,” said team co-captain Rosa Sheets. “All proceeds from this event will go directly to these two families. We appreciate all the help and support that people in our community and beyond can and will give. It will be a fun, family and child-friendly day.”
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