[Reprinted with permission from The Valley Independent, Monessen]
While families were putting into place their Easter plans and welcoming loved ones home for the holiday, a special event was taking place Saturday to benefit the Kelly Boyd family of Fallowfield Township.
In recent months the community has come forward in a variety of ways to support the Boyds, whose two children, Adam, age 10, and Amanda, age 3, have been diagnosed with neuroblastoma cancer. Saturday, the Masonic family representing more than 20 lodges and auxiliary groups gathered together to present the Boyds with a check for $48,300.
"This started as a conversation one night in a meeting when it was brought to our attention about the Boyd family situation," said James I. Girton, Worshipful Master, Charleroi Lodge No. 615, Free and Accepted Masons of Pennsylvania. "This lodge knew we had to do something to help."
According to Girton, after making a phone call to Craig Suppo, District Deputy Grand Master, 31st Masonic District, the project took off far beyond anyone's expectations. "Our goal is the union of good men, who together can do wondrous things," said Suppo.
Suppo told about hearing the story of the Boyd family, with both children having been diagnosed just days apart from one another. "I learned the odds are stacked against them," said Suppo. "In addition to medical problems, bills are mounting and both parents are missing a lot of work in order to care for their children. Boyd is a corrections officer at Washington County jail. His wife, Laura, is a teacher at Ridgeview Academy of Fayette County. She also teaches Sunday School at Grace Lutheran Church in Monongahela.
In December, young Adam Boyd was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, one of the most common cancers affecting children today. It typically begins in the abdominal area, either in the adrenal gland (located just above the kidney) or around the spinal cord in the neck, chest or pelvis. Neuroblastoma is most commonly diagnosed in children before age five and the cancer cells usually spread rapidly to the lymph nodes, liver, lungs, bones and bone marrow. While the parents came to terms with the diagnosis of their son, 3-year old Amanda Boyd was diagnosed with the same disease just six days after her older brother's surgery.
As a cancer survivor, himself, Suppo said the Boyd's situation prompted him to begin making phone calls, ultimately starting a charity drive. "It started with a simple letter to the brethren explaining the situation and asking for a $5 donation from each one," said Suppo. "The brethren responded with overwhelming generosity." According to Suppo, the donations came from every corner of Pennsylvania and beyond, including West Virginia, Ohio, Virginia, Delaware and Maryland. "They came from states as far south as Louisiana, Florida and Texas," he said. "They came from the midwest out of Oklahoma and Wyoming, then from further west, California, Arizona and Washington. All told, brethren from 20 states sent in money to help the Boyd family."
Greg and Roberta Doerfler, whose son, Brett, also battled cancer, joined the project along with students from Charleroi High School and many other volunteers throughout the community. A magician living in the Poconos heard about the drive and donated his time to hold a magic show as a fund raiser.
As he stood close to tears, Kelly Boyd thanked everyone for their generosity. "I'm sorry my wife isn't here tonight, but she's in Children's Hospital with Adam." Besides the check, Easter baskets and brightly wrapped gifts were given the father for his children. Sitting next to Boyd during the check presentation was his immediate work supervisor, Washington County jail warden, Joseph Pelzer, a man Boyd says has been a great support to him and his family."
The Boyds take things day to day and are thankful to the hundreds of people who have offered support.
The Valley Independent staff writer Stacy Wolford contributed to the story.
After receiving the presentation of the $48,300 gift of support, Kelly Boyd (left), father of Adam and Amanda (top photo), expresses his family's gratitude to Craig W. Suppo, (center), D.D.G.M., 31st Masonic District, and James I. Girton, W.M., Charleroi Lodge No. 615.