By Jacob Bowman
In the world that we live in, sickness and disease occur around us constantly. It’s just part of our everyday lives. However, one of the most impactful sicknesses is undoubtedly cancer. Cancer can attack almost any part of the human body, and it is such a common diagnosis that almost every single one of us knowa someone who has dealt with or has passed away from cancer. It can completely change a family within days of a diagnosis. Life outside of the hospital room doesn’t seem to exist while you focus all of your attention on beating this aggressive disease. Financial problems can occur at any time. You feel like your head is on a swivel and the anxiety can be almost too much to bear.
Enter The Dragonfly Foundation. These caring individuals strive to bring peace and tranquility to those around them during the fight of their lives. They know the hard times that families have fallen upon, mostly because they have been in their exact same shoes at one time or another.
Christine Neitzke’s son Matt was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in February of 2010. Ria Davidson, a friend of Christine’s, helped her cope with the process and kept Christine strong during her lowest points. Davidson would later lose her mother-in-law to brain and lung cancer. It is because of these difficulties that Neitzke and Davidson founded The Dragonfly Foundation (TDF) in August of 2010. As the group’s co-founders, they both set out to comfort families who were going through just what they had with Christine’s son and Ria’s mother-in-law. Their goals, simplistic but attainable, were to bring smiles to the kids that were fighting for their lives every day in the hospital.
The Dragonfly Foundation helps families of the children cope as well. A newly-admitted family will likely find a care package with essentials for the first weeks of the hospital stay. These may only be some toiletries and a few toys for the child, but the impact that the gesture makes goes well above some physical items. “One of my daughter’s best friends was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Lymphoma in early 2011. I put her mother in touch with The Dragonfly Foundation and they felt relief within a few visits to the hospital room. They brought Maya some games and toys to play with, but also talked to her parents and made sure that they were the most comfortable they could be with the situation,” said Kristin Goecke.
The foundation’s website, www.dragonfly.org, has a wide range of uses. There is a section about the group as well as the founders. There’s also a full calendar for future events that they’re hosting, links for where and how to donate to the group, and even tips on how to deal with the circumstances that families usually deal with. The site has information about the two locations in the Cincinnati area: the main headquarters, as well as “The Landing,” an interesting place where children and their families can stay to get out of the hospital for a little while. The inspiration behind the building is that “every Dragonfly needs a place to land.” According to Goecke, “What really makes The Dragonfly Foundation stand out is that [it]goes along perfectly with the actual hospitals like Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. The hospital does its best to provide medicine and treatment for the patient and TDF does its best to keep the patient’s attitude up, allowing them to build courage.”
The Dragonfly Foundation hosts fundraisers as well where their members can enjoy themselves and much-needed financial resources can be secured. There are multiple marathon runs slated for this time of year, and even a .1k run called the Dragonfly Dash, that allows the younger members to compete. The last Dash held was back in October of 2016. This event usually plays a significant role in the foundation’s continued success year in and year out. The event has entertainment, food sampling, games, and raffles, and Cincinnati’s own Q102 hosts the event and provides entertainment. Last year, it was hosted at the Liberty Center, and at peak times the event had about 250 in attendance. Visitors could partake in a dash around the center and collect badges from various stores and earn coupons for their efforts.
The foundation started out small, but the community quickly embraced the group, as hospitals like Cincinnati Children’s and Shriner’s Hospital for Children began supporting the organization. In 2011 the Stonelick Township Fire Department built and donated a yellow fire truck in honor of the foundation. “The Dragonfly” is a fully operational 1983 Ford. The truck is featured in many parades for both the fire department and The Dragonfly Foundation, but is also used as a serviceable truck when needed in action.
Volunteer fireman Tyler Cahill said this about the truck: “The Dragonfly truck is a great truck with an even better story behind it. When we revealed it to the organization back in 2011, we had all the members of The Dragonfly Foundation sign the panels of the truck. There’s a couple hundred signatures from the kids that came out to see the unveiling. It was a great experience to see their faces light up, and they sure did love signing and drawing on the panels. We as a department also enjoyed the event and it felt great to give back to such a worthy cause.”
The Dragonfly Foundation was only created a few short years ago, but with such great community support, they are positioned to be around for years to come. Although they would love to say that they are not needed anymore if cancer is miraculously cured, it is reassuring to new families dealing with the disease to know that TDF will be there to support them in the fight.