Mother Honors Her Daughter’s Spirit Through Edenfield Foundation

CANFIELD, Ohio — A mother’s decision to choose joy in the face of tragedy catalyzed robust funding and research that could radically change cancer treatment.

On May 22, 2020, Melina Edenfield was diagnosed with diffuse midline gliomas (DMG) – a fatal pediatric brain tumor. Melina suddenly went from a healthy 4-year-old who was running around daily with her 10 neighborhood friends to being in hospice care. Melina’s battle against the aggressive disease ended 32 days later.

The disease stole her physical ability, but it never touched her spirit. Until the very end, Melina was the same joyful, thoughtful and courageous little girl according to her mother, Michelle – from whom Melina undoubtedly inherited her headstrong and fearless spirit from. While the nature of the cancer didn’t give Melina a chance to fight, her mother has spent every day of the last two years since her death fighting for her.

“I’ll do whatever I have to do because that’s the way we fight for her,” Michelle Edenfield says. “She can’t fight for herself anymore, but I can.”

Michelle started the Melina Michelle Edenfield Foundation shortly before Melina’s death. DMG research receives less than 1% of cancer research funding even though out of all cancers, it’s the most fatal according, to Edenfield.

The foundation has raised over $600,000 for DMG research and pediatric brain tumor treatments since its first fundraising event: The Choose Joy for Melina Event. It began as a way for Melina’s 10 friends to process their grief while finding the joy she inspired them to chase. And now it’s grown to a celebration across the Mahoning Valley.

Since her death, the foundation has made significant progress towards its goals of spreading awareness and funding research. It joined forces with the Collaborative Network for Neuro-oncology Clinical Trials [CONNECT] Consortium and the DIPG/DMG Collaborative.

The Connect consortium is a global partnership of world-class childhood cancer centers and pediatric neuro-oncology experts. The international collaboration expands global access to novel, promising therapies for children and young adults with brain tumors and improves scientific discovery through collaboration. The consortium fronts the money for clinical trials while encouraging hospitals to share information, Edenfield says, adding that the end goal is a “virtual hospital.”

A virtual hospital would enable hospitals within the consortium to share information regarding treatments. Shared information would expand critical care to other hospitals, eliminating the need for travel that can be hard financially and physically on patients. On top of expanded care, a virtual hospital would lead to greater collaboration between doctors and researchers. Edenfield says that hospitals could combine clinical trials, which would increase the number of participants and lead to more data resulting in a greater chance of success.

The DIPG/DMG Collaborative is working to find the “home run cure for cancer.” It’s a collection of 17 foundations with the common interest of inspiring research into the cure of Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG) and DMG. As a partner, the Melina Michelle Edenfield Foundation will have a vote as to how the collaborative’s funds will be spent.

The collaborative operates on the belief that through a cure for DIPG/DMG, significant advances in other cancer research will be made.

“If we can cure this cancer which is the biggest, baddest cancer that exists, we can cure it all,” Edenfield says.

The foundation’s partnerships are made possible through fundraising events like Choose Joy for Melina. This year’s event will be held from 11:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. July 30 on the Canfield Green. The event will include raffle baskets, bounce houses, balloon animals, face painting, kids’ yoga, music, a photo booth, Melina’s Craft Corner, a giveaway table and more. All proceeds raised go directly towards funding pediatric brain tumor research.

Edenfield says she cannot express the gratitude she feels to the community for making the event and the research it funds possible.

“The fact that people have enabled me to have the power to fight for my little girl is unreal,” she says.

She hopes that even more people will come and find the joy that Melina continues to spread. “We cannot do this alone and it’s just unreal the amount that people have done for us. We just want people to come and find joy.”

For more information about the event and how to donate, visit TheChooseJoyEvent.com.
To learn more about the Melina Michelle Edenfield Foundation or to make a donation, visit MMEFoundationJoy.org.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.