Community rallies for local student diagnosed with stage-four Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

Local community service group Lead the Way will host a “Beef ’n Beer” fundraiser on Feb. 9 for 15-year-old Dalton McKernan

Dalton McKernan, 15, was diagnosed with stage-four Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in December.

In the fall, doctors said it was pneumonia, but after months of medication and being homebound from school with no signs of improvement, 15-year-old Dalton McKernan’s mother Elizabeth made a trip to the emergency room. During a chest x-ray, a mass was found on Dalton’s lung. After numerous tests at Cooper Hospital for tuberculosis, infectious diseases and more, Dalton was transferred to Nemours Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children where he received a biopsy on bumps in his throat. By late December, the McKernans were given the diagnosis: Dalton has stage-four Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a rare cancer found in lymph nodes, a part of the body’s immune system. As the news began to spread, the Williamstown community rallied together to support their own.

On Feb. 9, local community service group Lead the Way will be hosting a “Beef ’n Beverage” fundraiser for Dalton and his family, a single-parent household with two younger sisters Sarah, 13, and Ally, 10. Held at La Casa Fratello’s at Star Cross Fire Hall from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m., the 21 and older event will feature beer, wine and food, as well as a Chinese basket auction, raffle and custom T-shirts for $10. According to Lead the Way members Scott Whyte and Debbie DeFelice, while the 220 tickets sold out for $25 each within the first week of being on sale, donations are still welcomed to support the McKernan family. While Elizabeth will be attending the event, Dalton’s father Andrew will be staying home with him.

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“Our goal is to raise enough to offset the mom to pay for gas, tolls, co-pays,” Whyte said. “The quicker we can help her and the family, the easier it is on her.”

According to the family’s neighbor Jenna Bowman, Dalton’s bone marrow test was negative, and he was approved and chosen in a lottery to receive a new trial drug to combat the disease. During his chemotherapy treatments, which began earlier this month, Dalton is hospital-bound for four days at a time, making it difficult for Elizabeth to work both her full-time and part-time jobs as a children’s trauma psychologist.

“She’s a very good mother,” Bowman said. “She’s really good at talking to her kids and getting them through these things.”

According to Bowman, Dalton has been sharing inspirational quotes to his mother during his treatment, such as “we’ll kick this cancer’s butt” and “let’s get this party started.”

“He is such a rock for his mother, it’s unreal,” Bowman said.

In addition to “Beef ’n Beverage” ticket sales, local clubs and organizations have been hosting their own fundraising events to raise money for Dalton and his family. For example, the Williamstown High School band donated $200 and the Williamstown High School girls basketball team held a cancer awareness fundraiser and raised more than $1,300 for the McKernans.

“People come together when there is an issue, especially when it comes to kids,” Whyte said.

A community meal-train has been started for the family, where neighbors and residents can sign up to cook the McKernans a meal each day to alleviate as much stress as possible. So far, meals have been scheduled to the end of February.

Furthermore, a YouCaring fundraising page has been created for Dalton and his family, organized by Lead the Way member Michelle Kahrmann, to collect donations to help Elizabeth make ends meet. With a goal of $10,000, the site has received more than $4,700 from 95 donors.

“People want that happy ending, and they want to be a part of it,” DeFelice said. “Just knowing you’re going to make her life easier helps you sleep at night.”

To pay it forward, Lead the Way and the McKernan family have also made the decision to donate a portion of the 50/50 raffle ticket sales to another local in need — an employee of the Monroe Township Public School District who was recently diagnosed with leukemia. The day after receiving her diagnosis, she also suffered from a stroke, Whyte said.

“At the end of the day, the only thing we want from this is for whoever we help to then give back someway, someday,” Whyte said. “This is a way to have Dalton’s family start giving back and pay it forward to help someone else heal.”

To make a donation to the McKernan family, visit www.youcaring.com and search “Help Dalton McKernan Fight Cancer.” To sign up for the meal train, visit www.mealtrain.com/981366. For more information on the “Beef ’n Beverage” fundraiser and how to contribute, visit Lead the Way on Facebook, or call Whyte at (856) 466–1777. You may also follow Dalton’s journey on the “TeamDalton2018” Facebook page.

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