Local Foundation Gives Valley a Global Voice in Pediatric Brain Tumor Research

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — The Melina Michelle Edenfield Foundation is going big for its first major fundraiser of 2022.

The foundation is hosting An Evening of Joy on March 19 at the Embassy Banquet Centre at 5030 Youngstown-Poland Road, Struthers. Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased at Bidpal.net/choosejoy.

The foundation was founded in 2020 when 4-year-old Melina Michelle Edenfield succumbed that June to Diffuse Midline Glioma, a deadly childhood brain tumor she was diagnosed with just a month earlier.

Since its founding, the nonprofit has organized a number of fundraisers that have received big support from area businesses and residents, say Michelle and Keith Edenfield, Melina’s parents. In August, residents packed the Green in Canfield for the second annual Choose Joy event and donated collectively more than $20,000.

“Over the past 18 months, we have been able to raise over $450,000,” Michelle Edenfield says. “We cannot do this alone and I could never have dreamed of this support. This community is beyond words and I will spend the rest of my life expressing the gratitude we feel.”

That support has allowed the foundation to become one of eight funding partners in the Connect Consortium, a global partnership of world-class childhood cancer centers and pediatric neuro-oncology experts. Melina Michelle Edenfield Foundation donated $50,000 to support research done within the Consortium, which expands global access to novel, promising therapies for children and young adults with brain tumors.

As a partner in Connect, the foundation receives quarterly updates on progress in clinical trials, what is working and what isn’t, Michelle Edenfield says. The collaborative meets each year to discuss those updates and hold researchers accountable, she says.

Last year, it also became a member of the DIPG/DMG Collaborative, a partnership of 17 foundations investing in diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma research to find a cure. As a partner, the Melina Michelle Edenfield Foundation has an active vote in determining how the collaborative’s funds are spent.

The foundation has an equal vote among other partners in each cooperative in terms of how funding is placed and which research initiatives are pursued, Keith Edenfield says.

“Some of our fellow partners, within each cooperative respectively, are outside of the United States,” he says. “We have given the Mahoning Valley a voice in the worldwide fight against pediatric brain tumors.”

The organization has also invested locally, donating $200,000 to Akron Children’s Hospital, including an initial $150,000 donation to support research specific to pediatric brain tumors and other related initiatives there.

As the foundation prepares for more fundraisers this year, including its next Choose Joy event in Canfield on July 30, the Edenfields say the Evening of Joy will keep the momentum going in increasing awareness of pediatric brain tumors.

“We need to increase funding for all pediatric cancer research. These children deserve better,” Michelle Edenfield says. “Do I believe that we will be the cure? I truly hope so. But also we want to get to share Melina’s message. This evening is a chance to share her joy.

“We truly see the impact that Melina is having on helping others to ‘Choose Joy’ during challenging times, and that is positivity that needs to be shared. This event allows us to not only continue to fight for a cure, but to continue to share our Melina’s joy.”

Reserved seating options for An Evening of Joy includes tables of eight for $1,000 or tables of 10 for $1,250. Open seating options are $125 for individual tickets and $250 for couples.

All tickets include gourmet food, open bar and live entertainment by Ovation.

Mobile bidding for the silent auction opens March 4 in honor of the More than 4 awareness campaign to gain more funding for pediatric cancer research. Some auction items include a two-night stay in a deluxe room at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, a one-night stay at the Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack and Resort with a food voucher, Ohio State University football tickets and tailgate package, and a Rose full-day package at Casal’s dé Spa and Salon in Canfield.

To learn more about the Melina Michelle Edenfield Foundation or to make a donation, visit MMEFoundationJoy.org.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.