Melina was a vibrant, energetic four-year-old girl who brought joy to the faces of everyone she met. Unfortunately, on May 22, 2020 her life and the lives of her family changed forever when she was diagnosed with a deadly brain tumor called Diffuse Midline Glioma. Her fight with this deadly tumor ended on June 24, 2020 when she passed away.
While her fight was brief, her family wanted to make sure it wasn’t in vain, so they established the Melina Michelle Edenfield Foundation. Recently the foundation made a gift of $150,000 to Akron Children’s to establish the Melina Michelle Edenfield Foundation Fund.
Melina’s parents, Michelle and Keith Edenfield, hope this money will have a direct and lasting impact on the families. The fund will provide financial support for research into pediatric brain tumors in the Showers Family Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders.
“It was important to us to keep the money local – Dr. Wright, our pediatric oncologist, fought for our child. We wanted her to know that we will support her forever, since helping families like ours is her passion,” Michelle said.
Erin Wright, M.D., is a pediatric neuro-oncologist and director for the Shannon E. Wilkes Targeting Therapy Program. She treated Melina along with Gwyneth Hughes, M.D., a pediatric neurosurgeon.
“I pray I never have to make a referral to Dr. Wright or Dr. Hughes. But they are fantastic. In fact, that is an understatement. Anything you could want in a doctor they have,” said Keith.
Not only do the Edenfields hope their story and their support will speed breakthroughs in the treatment of pediatric cancer, but they also hope it draws attention to the lack of funding for pediatric tumor research. Currently, less than 4 percent of the National Institutes of Health budget is directed toward childhood cancer research. And a fraction of that is for pediatric brain tumor research. In fact, in the last 25 years, only two new treatments for brain tumors have been approved.
“During this whole time, the only thing I ever wanted was answers to why this is happening,” Michelle said.
And the Edenfields hope that by funding research they can help provide answers to other families who are going through this type of situation.
“We want people to understand the impact this money will make,” Michelle said. “Honestly, there just isn’t a lot of financial support for this cause, so every penny counts.”
The tumor that took Melina’s life was the same type that took the life of the daughter of Ohio-native and astronaut, Neil Armstrong. “Melina received the exact same treatment his daughter received,” Keith said. “Treatments for this haven’t changed in 50 years.”
By funding research at Akron Children’s Hospital, the Edenfields are hoping to change that.
“We want to help people who feel helpless and provide them with a voice. For hundreds of families their only hope begins with the research that is happening because of funds like this and in places like Akron Children’s,” Michelle said.
If you want to support the Melina Michelle Edenfield Fund at Akron Children’s, then please contact Jillian Chahine at email@example.com or call 330-559-0820.