CLARKS SUMMIT — Hillside Park’s pavilion was filled with friends, family members and the community Sept. 17 for Praise in the Park for Matthew’s Miracle, held in honor of South Abington Township resident Matthew McDonnell, who has been battling a rare form of Wilm’s tumor (kidney cancer) since age 3.
Six-year-old McDonnell recently had a second relapse last July (the first one was in November 2015). Therefore, his doctor at Moses Taylor Hospital recommended to his parents Patrick and Linda McDonnell, who adopted Matthew, for him to receive a trial immunotherapy drug at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). Matthew is the first patient at CHOP to enter this trial.
Praise in the Park was sponsored by the Abington Area Joint Recreation Board (AAJRB) and community volunteers. Linda McDonnell wanted to have an outward community event for her son. She contacted her friend Sue Youtz who then contacted AAJRB. AAJRB donated the pavilion at Hillside Park to use as an outdoor venue for worship, prayer, and music.
“It was a very big group effort to pull all the details,” said Youtz. “We’re grateful for the great turnout and weather.”
Friends of the McDonnell family, Dan Maurer and Maribel Romero, performed worship songs in front of many friends, family members, and the community who came to give their support for Matthew. Maurer and Romero both attend Parker Hill Church with the McDonnell family.
“I was honored to be a part of it (Praise in the Park),” said Maurer, who is also in the same growth group bible study as the McDonnells. “Matthew’s a great kid, and we’re all believing in a miracle.”
Maurer’s daughters Isabelle and Emilia Maurer performed a special dance at the event along with their friend Elissa Loubet.
Romero has a son, Gabriel, who’s in the same first grade class as Matthew at South Abington Elementary School.
Church members of Parker Hill also included Pastor Paul McGuinness, who conducted the opening and closing prayers, and Rev. Jim Snook, who conducted a sermon.
During the event, people wrote words of encouragement and placed them in a box for Matthew and his parents to read.
“I just think it’s great that the friends and family showed support,” said Laurel Verchuk from Scranton, friend of the McDonnell family. “For a small child, he has tremendous faith and is a witness to so many people and his faith is what’s giving him his strength.”
Last year, the teachers and students of South Abington Elementary held a fundraiser called Mittens for Matthew, in which fellow students and their families donated money to defray the cost of traveling to Philadelphia when Matthew first needed to go to CHOP during his first relapse in November 2015.
This year, funds for Matthew are accepted at Community Bank in Olyphant. People can either mail or personally send monetary funds for Matthew’s recovery. It is called the Matthew Christian McDonnell Fund.
Matthew’s parents Patrick and Linda received much emotional support from many people in the community, who came to the event.
“I’m so overwhelmed by the love and support and everybody who reached out,” said Patrick.
“I think that this event showed me that God is with us,” said Linda. “It really encouraged our hearts with the pouring of love from the community.”
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