We arrived in Cincinnati for an unknown amount of time in March 2018. I was really worried about Emmaleigh’s mental health and asked the social worker that was assigned to us through the children’s hospital if there were any sibling programs that could help Emmy cope with our life. She quickly said The Dragonfly Foundation. After leaving for a while, she came back with a registration form for us to fill out and a blue bag
This bag…now about two days prior to this appointment, I had gone to the store to buy all kinds of random things we were going to need if we stayed in Cincy for an extended period of time. A calendar, pens, travel kit, tape, and all other sorts of random things. This bag had everything I had just bought and SO much more. It was like a hug from a complete stranger, someone who knew exactly what you would need before you even knew it. The bag gave me comfort that someone before me had walked this road.
I filled out the form, took the bag, and we headed to our AirBnb in Mt. Adams. A couple of days later I received a phone call from the sweetest woman from Dragonfly getting to know our family even more! She explained the landing and the family portal.
Being medically relocated you usually do not have friends or family around and the landing was a place where we could visit, enjoy their company, and have our kids play in a safe and clean environment!
The landing became a home away from home where we’d visit family on our trips back. A layer of normalcy my kids needed, a couch I could sit on after traveling 12 hours with LJ alone, while people who loved my kid played with him.
Many events and tickets to events each month are hosted by Dragonfly for kids and families to attend. Not only do these events provide us some memories, fun, and distraction they also place us around other families that are trying to wade through the deep waters of a cancer diagnosis. Our first Dragonfly event was a hockey game! LJ was in the middle of radiation and we were trying to keep him as well as possible while still giving a great quality of life. Dragonfly already knew what we needed before we did and they have a suite available at Bank Arena (where the hockey game was played) so that families that need the safety of less germs, more room for equipment your child might have, or just a closer restroom, could attend events comfortably!
We’ve attended numerous Cincinnati Reds games! We have sat all over that stadium from The Diamond Club, suites, scout seats, and the pilot house! We’ve hung out with Marty Brennaman in the press box where he served my kids tons of ice cream but always makes sure to wipe their faces clean! This year we attended Dragonfly’s Reds Day where the kid’s were able to play baseball on the field with their adorable custom jerseys. There is just something magical about watching a bunch of kids fighting for their lives and their families who are so worn down and stressed out playing baseball like everything is normal. This is what Dragonfly is, bringing normal to a world that won’t stop spinning.
We were able to reconnect with AJ Green while attending a few Bengals practice and a game. LJ has recovered from an MRI on the Bengals sideline where he was a hysterical wobbly mess. The most memorable and Em’s favorite practice was our first one when we were brought to the stadium by a limo and met a wonderful woman, Kristin, who has continued to be a part of our life and journey!
Dragonfly’s Kings Island Day was one of our highlights of both summer 2018 and 2019! We love a good theme park and Joshua loves food, Dragonfly provides tickets and lunch on this super fun day! Dragonfly even helps delinquent adults like me who forget their lunch tickets the second year because we had season passes to Kings Island and I didn’t realize the tickets were needed for the provided lunch too. I’m a mess and the Dragonfly team that have become like family to us over this year help hold me together.
When LJ was diagnosed in February 2018, although I had practically just put away the Christmas decor I was hyperfoucused on the holiday season of 2018. I was so afraid that I wouldn’t be able to celebrate with LJ. Christmas came, LJ was with us, and Dragonfly became a real life Santa Claus. The way Dragonfly does Christmas is unlike most nonprofits that are involved with cancer patients. Dragonfly provides gifts for the entire family. LJ made a wish list, Em made a wish list, and even Joshua and I made wish lists. Days before we left Alaska, a huge box arrived from Dragonfly full of gifts that were already wrapped for our family! It not only relieved some normal holiday pressure but added JOY to our first Christmas that would be clouded by cancer.
Shortly after moving to Ohio and a few weeks after closing on our house we were able to be a part of The Dragonfly 2019 Grand Gala. It was an amazing party celebrating all Dragonfly had done the previous year and a fundraiser for the following year! We were joined by AJ Green, Jake and Heidi, Joe and Trish, and super surprised by Megan and Gabe!! Our Dragonfly family was there of course, along with many doctors, and other staff of the children’s hospital. I didn’t see my kids most of the night they were running around having so much fun. LJ’s favorite thing was the penguin that visited from the Newport Aquarium. Emmaleigh was “living her best life” with a group of nurses and spent most of her time at the photo booth!
Gala Photography by THE HARTONGS, Photojournalists
Joshua and I were able to share our story and talk about the foundation’s impact on our lives. Dragonfly is a perfect example of the calling to be the hands and feet of Jesus. When they see a need they do everything in their power to help. They move mountains when you feel like you can’t take one more step. They were our village when our village was spread clear across the United States. We were a medically dislocated military family, they were a place to land when we had no where else comfortable to go. Although I wouldn’t wish a cancer diagnosis on anyone, I do wish that everyone could experience the love and support Dragonfly gives to my family.
The Dragonfly Foundation isn’t some magically funded machine. It is a living group of people who love and are passionate about making people’s lives more joyful. The families they pour themselves into are going through the unimaginable. I never in my wildest dreams thought we would be walking this path. No one looks down at their beautiful baby and says “I wonder if you’ll ever get cancer?” My entire life perspective is different now. I see everything through the lens of a cancer diagnosis. Dragonfly helps me wipe off those lenses, sometimes even repairs the frames, and live life more normally. All of this care would not be possible without The Dragonfly Foundation donors and supporters. When you give to Dragonfly your donation is turned into memories with my child that I will cherish for the rest of my life. We are so grateful for our relationship with the Dragonfly Foundation and all the people that make it possible.