Aidan Collins is your average American three-year-old.
With the sweetest personality, Aidan charms everyone with whom he comes in contact.
“K’bye, be safe,” he says to departing house guests — and they just love him, says his mother Lisa Blakely.
“He’s a typical boy,” she adds. “He plays rough, plays hard with the kids, but has a heart of gold.”
But, since last November, Aidan’s life has changed dramatically. He was diagnosed with Wilms tumor, a common childhood cancer, and has started both radiation and chemotherapy at Children’s Hospital hat drain him of energy and appetite, leaving him tired, rundown and sick.
The illness has been compounded by more bad news for Blakely and her husband Jarrod: the couple were both laid off from their jobs around the time of little Aidan’s diagnosis.
Family, friends, and many others with whom Blakely and Collins have reconnected, many via Facebook, are chipping in to help with anything the family needs. A Dorchester fundraiser dubbed Aid 4 Aidan is set for Friday, March 18th at Florian Hall, the day before Aidan’s 4th birthday. The family, which lives in Abington, has deep Dorchester roots: Jarrod’s father grew up in the neighborhood and Lisa’s family has called St. Margaret’s parish home for generations.
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, Wilms tumor is the most common type of kidney cancer in children, with symptoms surfacing around age 3. The exact cause is unknown but genetics are believed to be a factor. Rare but treatable, Wilms tumor affects one in 200,000 to 250,000 children.
Since his diagnosis when he weighed 52 lbs., Aidan has dropped to 48 lbs.
“He can’t even tolerate food,” Blakely says of Aidan’s reaction. In addition to radiation and chemo, he underwent a blood and platelet transfusion recently. Medication and hospital visits are routine now. The road is a long and difficult one and Blakely is overwhelmed, she says, but Aidan smiles through everything.
“2010 was not a good year but 2011 will be better,” she says.
Despite their trials, the family remains steadfastly positive. “[Aidan’s doctors say] these are all normal things that happen and that he is doing good and I have to hold on to that every day,” she says. “And as a mom, I’m looking for the day when they say your son is cancer-free.”
The support they’ve received astonishes family members. A Dedham deacon contacted Collins’s sister Jessica McDonagh and shared that he led the local congregation in prayer for Aidan and took up a collection for the family.
“I’m getting phone calls from people I’ve never even met,” McDonagh says.
Blakely is grateful, floored by the generosity of both loved ones and strangers.
“People are so good. It’s just amazing, it’s just absolutely amazing.”
The family, which includes older brother Philip, older sister Marina and baby Bridgette, is buoyed by the outpouring of support for Aidan and their own positive outlook.
“It’s truly amazing where you do find the strength ‘cause you have to. You have to find it. It’s the cliche but you truly have to take one day at a time,” Blakely adds. “You don’t know what’s even gonna happen at suppertime, let alone tomorrow, and do the best you can.”
Melissa Iskra, Blakely’s sister, teamed up with McDonagh to diligently organize the March 18 fundraiser.
“Jessica and I have been working together along with our other family members, friends, and the community in which we live. It is just amazing how much love and support we are getting from everyone,” she says. “We just want to give back and help them out in any way that we know how. My sister Lisa would be the first person to help someone out in need. If you talk to anybody that knows Lisa, they will tell you the same thing.”
McDonagh echoes Iskra’s sentiments.
“They’d both be the first [to help others]. My brother would give you the last dollar in his pocket.”
Aid 4 Aidan will include DJs Keith Levine and Joe Fassey, Irish step dancers from Clifden Academy of Irish Dance in Milton, and friend Jarrod MacDonald will perform. There will be a silent auction and raffle items including Celtics, Patriots and Bruins tickets, Chelsea Handler tickets, gift certificates to spas and restaurants, limo service, Madison handbags, a flat screen TV, fitness club memberships and more.
Tickets are $25 and donations and raffle items are welcome. For more information, please contact Iskra by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or McDonagh at email@example.com. If you’d like to give directly, visit any Citizens Bank branch and make a donation to Account #1322384115, Aidan Collins.