S. ABINGTON TWP. — A sign inside the McDonnell residence is adorned with Scripture: “With God, all things are possible,” it reads, the last part of Matthew, chapter 19, verse 26.
Matthew McDonnell is living proof, really. On Feb. 23, the 9-year-old and his family celebrated “a very miraculous miracle,” he said, the two-year anniversary of being cancer-free. Matthew has made it his mission to help other children experience miracles, too. Next month, he’ll take strides to make it happen.
“Since I had cancer in my life, I want other kids to be healed from their diseases and whatever they have,” the third grader at South Abington Elementary School said. “I want them to feel better.”
The inaugural Matthew’s Hope 4 Miracles 5K Run/Fun Walk is scheduled for June 1 at Nay Aug Park, 500 Arthur Ave., in Scranton. The event marks the first fundaiser the nonprofit, which Matthew launched to help defeat pediatric cancer, has hosted since the charity started late last year.
The “4” in the nonprofit’s name is significant for Matthew and his family. For most of his life, he battled a Wilms tumor, a type of pediatric kidney cancer. From his diagnosis when he was 3 years old until 2017, he braved surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation and an experimental immunotherapy trial that trained T cells in his body to target the cancer. The disease returned several times. Four times, he beat it.
Proceeds from the race will support the mission of Matthew’s Hope 4 Miracles, which centers on raising awareness of pediatric cancer and a lack of funding toward research of the childhood ailments, said Linda McDonnell, Matthew’s mother. Only 4% of federal government cancer research funding goes to study pediatric cancer, according to the National Pediatric Cancer Foundation.
The group also hopes to raise and donate funds to provide better treatment options for children and help local families as they go through their fight, Linda said.
The community rallied behind Matthew and his family and helped them over his five-year battle, she said. Now, they have an opportunity to pay that forward.
“We know how horrible this journey is and how difficult it is,” Linda said. “We want to help them in practical ways, whether it’s gas cards or whatever they need.”
As for Matthew, he plans on lacing up his shoes and running a mile of the course.
“I’m excited to see a lot of people at the race,” Matthew said.
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Want to run with Matthew?
Visit runsignup.com or the Matthew’s Hope 4 Miracles Facebook page to preregister. Registration costs $20 for the 5K race and $15 for the fun walk. Participants can also register on the day of the race at the Nay Aug Park bandstand pavilion between 7:30 a.m. and 8:45 a.m. The run and walk begin at 9 a.m.
The overall male and female winners will each get a gift card. Medals will be given to the top male and female finisher in each age group.
The event will also feature basket raffles and an appearance by Champ, the mascot of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders.
Facts about pediatric cancer:
■ 1 in 285 children will be diagnosed with cancer.
■ 43 children per day or 15,780 children per year are expected to be diagnosed with cancer.
■ More than 95% of childhood cancer survivors will have a significant health-related issue by the time they are 45 years of age. These health-related issues are side effects of either cancer or more commonly, the result of its treatment.
■ Cancer is the number one cause of death by disease among children.
■ Since 1980, fewer than 10 drugs have been developed for use in children with cancer. Only three drugs (Teniposide and Clofarabine, and Unituxin for use in high-risk neuroblastoma) have been approved for use in children. Only four additional new drugs have been approved for use by both adults and children.
■ The average cost of a stay in a hospital for a child with cancer is $40,000.
■ Only 4% of federal government cancer research funding goes to study pediatric cancer.
— National Pediatric Cancer Foundation