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ANNE MELIM CLIMBED MT. WASHINGTON TO RAISE FUNDS FOR THE JACOB SCHAFFNER CANCER BENEFIT and donated it to Color My World for the Jacob Schaffner Cancer Benefit hosted by Color My World!

Ann Raised Over $1800 for the Cause! Good Job Anne!

Boys fighting cancer linked by Goffstown schools
JAN. 6, 2007

As two youths grapple with the effects of childhood cancer, a community stands by to help them.

Jacob Schaffner, 7, recently completed treatment for kidney cancer, while 5-year-old Avery Forrestall remains in the thick of a battle with childhood leukemia diagnosed two days after Thanksgiving.

Both youngsters have strong ties to Goffstown, with the Schaffner family residents of the town and both children’s mothers, Elaine Schaffner and Becky Forrestall, employees of Goffstown High School.

“Goffstown has been very supportive,” said Becky Forrestall, a Henniker resident and longtime educator in the Goffstown School District.

The support comes at a crucial time for the Forrestall family, following a holiday season that has been a whirlwind of treatments and doctors, infections and recoveries, as they support Avery’s fight with childhood leukemia.

The Forrestall’s troubles began the Saturday after Thanksgiving, following a week of Avery’s appearing run down and given to bruising.

His parents, Becky and Jim, first attributed the boy’s lethargy to the effects of a recent flu shot and his bruising to ordinary childhood escapades.

“We figured he’s a boy and he’s 5, so maybe that explains the bruising. But he was bruising a lot,” Becky Forrestall said.

A visit to the family pediatrician brought forth a possibility the family had not even considered: The boy’s symptoms reflected the classic signs of childhood leukemia, according to his doctor.

Blood work at the pediatrician’s office confirmed the diagnosis.

The family went to the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon for further treatment, and a bone marrow biopsy revealed Avery to be suffering from acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

Becky Forrestall, a special education facilitator at Goffstown High School, and Jim Forrestall, a psychotherapist in Manchester, have spent most of their time since Nov. 25 at the medical center while family members have helped to look after the Forrestall’s daughters, Delaney, 3, and Kadie, 1.

The Forrestalls have also chronicled their experiences on a Web site, www.caringbridge.org/visit/averyforrestall, which they often update several times a day.

Becky Forrestall said she finds support in the messages written in the Web site’s guest book. Having worked at Goffstown schools, including Mountain View Middle School, Maple Avenue and Bartlett Elementary, as well as the high school, Avery’s mother said she considers Goffstown her second home.

Along with the emotional support of the Web site and the gift of a superhero’s cape from Avery’s preschool classmates at the Casa Dei Bambini in Bow, the Forrestalls are also the target of several financial relief efforts.

Becky and Jim Forrestal both had to take leave of their work following Avery’s diagnosis.

Jim has since returned to his psychotherapy practice while Becky remains on leave, and the missed income has affected the family’s finances, Becky said.

Marlene Turcotte, a Goffstown High School colleague of Becky Forrestall’s who used to babysit for Avery and Delaney, said several efforts are underway to help the family. Foremost among these is a Citizens Bank account established to help with the family’s medical and living expenses. Donations to the account can be sent to Friends for Avery, P.O. Box 472, Goffstown, NH 03045.

Other aid efforts include a fundraiser at the Intervale Pancake House in Henniker, where participants can purchase pieces to a puzzle picture of Avery for $20 each. The two contestants who hold the missing pieces to the puzzle will each receive $250 at the drawing on Jan. 27.

Other potential fundraising activities include a pasta dinner and auction at Goffstown High School at a date to be determined, and a Bald is Beautiful party in the spring.

For further information about Forrestall, contact Turcotte at 626-8606 or mturcotte@goffstown.k12.nh.us.

As Avery Forrestall continues in his struggle against childhood leukemia, another local family believes their fight may be over.

Jacob Schaffner, a 7-year-old second-grader at Maple Avenue Elementary School, was diagnosed with kidney cancer in June. Since then, Schaffner went through a 20-week chemotherapy program at Children’s Hospital in Boston. His family received help in covering medical expenses through a benefit dinner in November, said Jacob’s mother, Elaine.

Further benefit came from Ann Melim, a lifelong Goffstown resident whose father told her of Jacob’s plight.

“It kind of broke my heart, and I wanted to do something to help,” said Melim, an English teacher at Hollis/Brookline High School.

Melim had previously heard of an organization called Summit for Someone, and thought she would take a similar approach in raising money for a worthy local cause.

After raising $1,200 to benefit the Schaffner family, Melim made the climb of Mount Washington’s 6,228-foot Lion’s Head Trail on Saturday, Jan. 6, along with her husband, Joe Melim, and climbing guide Jim Shimberg of Rumney.

“I consider this a ‘pay-itforward’ kind of thing,” Melim said of her efforts to help the Schaffner family. She also said she plans to make a charity hike of Mount Washington into an annual tradition.

Melim’s contribution adds to the Schaffners’ pleasure in seeing Jacob’s chemotherapy end in November and watching their son’s hair return after months of chemotherapy.

“They expect him to be totally back to normal in May,” said Elaine Schaffner, a speech and language pathologist at Goffstown High School.

Schaffner said Jacob recently met Melim, shortly before her Mount Washington climb. Jacob’s mother said she put the importance of Melim’s climb into language her son would understand.

“I said, you’ve climbed a mountain, and now (Melim) is going to climb a mountain for you.”