NANTICOKE – Lauren Brown said she knew something was wrong when her 17-month-old daughter wouldn’t sleep through the night.
Her instinct was right.
“They did the ultrasound, that’s when they found the mass inside her bladder,” a teary-eyed Brown said of a hospital trip to Danville. “After more testing, we found out that it was a tumor.”
Her daughter, Scarlett Frankowski, was diagnosed with stage III rhabdomyosarcoma – a pediatric form of bladder cancer.
Scarlett was one of three children – all 3 years old or younger – selected to be the beneficiaries of the 18th annual Valley With a Heart ride and benefit Sunday.
Now under the care of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Scarlett is undergoing chemotherapy along with repeated surgeries to try to remove the tumor in the hopes of saving her bladder.
Brown said she first heard about Valley With a Heart through individuals associated with the nonprofit. After filling out an application for assistance, the family has received $2,000 worth of gift cards to help with gas, food, bills and more – something Brown said she is thankful for since she was forced to leave her job.
“Ever since she got diagnosed, I’ve been out of work, and going from two incomes to one isn’t really the greatest,” she said.
As roughly 300 bikers returned to St. Faustina Grove following the ride, organization president Rick Temarantz explained how this year’s benefit is not only aiding seriously ill children and their families in the area, but also memorializing former benefit poster-child Amanda Sod Braley and two others close to the group who lost their lives this past year.
Braley, Temarants said, was the organization’s second-ever poster child. Diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, Barley was able to beat the cancer four times throughout her her life, growing a close relationship with members of Valley With a Heart in the process.
But when it returned again, organization members said Braley made the announcement that she was done fighting, and officially lost her battle this past March.
“She was definitely an inspiration to us all,” Temarantz said, noting that despite recurring cancer Braley was always upbeat and known as a “fighter.” “Battling cancer and beating it for as many times as she did – I mean I don’t know if I could have done that.”
While the organization president admitted that there is no monetary goal the group is trying to reach, he did acknowledge the optimistic turnout for this year’s benefit while praising sunny skies above.
While the majority of event funds will go benefit the three poster-children, some funds will be set aside for the group to assist other families throughout the year.
“We’d be more than willing and more than able to help,” he added, prompting families with seriously ill children to visit the Valley With a Heart website.
While the area filled with attendees buying foods, indulging in raffle baskets and playing games, Victoria Stash was busy watching her son finish his set on stage. Her son and other family members are a part of Breakdown Jimmy, just one of 15 bands to fill the venue with live music on two stages during the event.
“We come out every year to support Valley With a Heart because we think it’s a great cause,” she said. “I don’t ride unfortunately … but there’s always lots of music, games, foods and its just such a worthy cause.”
As for Brown, she said she plans on using the funds from the benefit to help catch up on bills while also setting some aside for Scarlett’s future medical expenses, including another surgery she’s scheduled to have next week.
With her family surrounding her, Brown said she was overwhelmed at the amount of support from the community to help her and the other families.
“Today’s also my 30th birthday, so I couldn’t have asked for a better present,” she said.
For more information, visit ValleyWithAHeart.com.
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