Cancer benefit Saturday for girl, 2

One brave little girl is getting a whole lot of love these days from her community.

The OBSERVER first heard about 2-year-old Isabella Crowell’s cancer while covering the Cut For a Cure at Silver Creek Central School back in January.

More than $4,000 was raised during that fundraiser to help with her medical bills.

Now, Musicians Against Cancer Founder John Yerico is putting together a benefit for this little girl who is still in serious need of financial help.

Moose Lodge 89 at 296 Lake Shore Drive W. in Dunkirk will host a Chicken & Ribs Barbecue Dinner Saturday from 4 to 7 p.m. Tickets are $15 pre-sale and $20 at the door. Afterward, the MAC band will perform, along with Beggars Best from 7 to 10 p.m.

Rebecca Schafer, Isabella Crowell’s mother, noted that this benefit will be “extra special.”

“Her birthday is May 9,” she said. “This benefit is real close to her birthday, so that’s perfect.”

A silent auction and memory wall will also be available during this event. This event is in conjunction with the Northern Chautauqua Community Foundation. Contact the MAC at 969-0236 or 785-0798 or Beggars at 969-0226 for presale tickets.

Schafer commented on Isabella’s love for music.

“She loves to dance,” she said. “She will probably have a blast.”

Isabella was diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare childhood cancer, in April 2013 at the age of 11 months after her parents noticed a small lump in her nostril and a tendency toward nosebleeds.

Rhabdomyosarcoma is a malignant tumor of the muscles that attach to the bones. It can occur in many places in the body. The most common sites are the structures of the head and neck, the urogenital tract, and the arms or legs.

Surgery to remove the undetermined tumor at the time was done within two days of discovery and following MRI’s, X-rays, and C-Scans. The biopsy results confirmed a malignant tumor and a team of doctors assembled to determine the best course of treatment. An action plan was developed by Roswell Park Cancer Institute and Women and Children’s Hospital. A conference with the parents was called and the doctors explained the disease and the plan to combat it.

Schafer wants everyone to know Isabella is doing much better now, and her hair is starting to grow back. However, she still needs monthly checkups at home and must travel to Women and Children’s Hospital once every three months for scans. There will be more scans at the end of May.

Dunkirk Moose Lodge Assistant Regional Manager Bill Winder approached event organizer Yerico years ago, asking if he would play music again. Yerico has been playing music for a long time, but found he was not getting much pleasure out of it any more.

“I told him I did it for 25 years and had no cause to do it any more,” Yerico recalled. “Bill told me, ‘I got the place, pick a cause; there is a million of them.'”

Yerico went to his good friend John Dickenson, who passed away recently, and told him of the plan to bring the band back together. Dickenson quickly became his co-partner in Musicians Against Cancer.

That is the story of how Musicians Against Cancer, or MAC, was born. It has been going strong the last three years. Kristin Britz has taken over for Dickenson. Darren Tippens and Martin Zdrojewski complete the band.

“We help someone with cancer every year,” he said. “Last year, it was a 16-year-old girl who needed our help. Now she is cancer- free.”

Schafer cannot wait for the summer, so she can take her daughter out to enjoy the weather.

“She couldn’t go outside before because of radiation,” she said.

Money raised at the event will go into a savings account and all checks go to the families who need it. The checks should be made out to NCCF. Put Isabella’s name on the check and hand it to Yerico or Britz.

Schafer is making a scrapbook for little Isabella to enjoy when she is older.

“I put all the pictures I took of the Cut For a Cure and letters the students wrote into a scrapbook,” she said. “She can see 10 years later what people have done for her. I will put pictures of this benefit into her scrapbook, too.”

Yerico believes if God blesses someone with a talent, you should use it to help others.

“This band is the best. Beggars Best and MAC are united musicians against cancer,” Yerico said. “We’d like to have an open mic night, so if you are there and playing, you can use your talents God gave you to help a little girl.”

“What makes us, as a community, not feel so helpless is to change the hearts, minds and attitudes of the ones hurting,” Yerico added. “Give them a moment to share together; give them a good feeling and support by coming together.”

Schafer knows her daughter will always have issues with her immune system, but now the chemo-therapy is done and she can enjoy being a little girl.

“When you are in need, it is nice to have people who help and stand by you,” she said.

Comments on this story may be sent to jwillis@observertoday.com