Hearing the words, 'Your child has cancer' is every parent's worst nightmare and are the very words that 6-year-old Branden Barbone's parents - Wendy Raser-Barbone and Mike Barbone – heard in April 2012. It all started on March 13 when Wendy noticed a large lump on Branden's thigh. Branden said he thought he probably hit it while he was playing that day, but after it didn't hurt or bruise after 24 hours, they decided to take him to the doctor.
After multiple ultrasounds, a slew of lab work, and finally a biopsy, the doctors decided to remove the lump. Just three weeks after finding the lump Branden was in his first surgery to have the large node removed. Three days later, their worst fears came true – cancer cells were found. Branden was eventually diagnosed with stage 3 Lymphoma. Since then, Branden has endured x-rays, EKG's, a marrow biopsy, chemotherapy and more. Wendy said, 'All my life I have feared I might get cancer someday. I never dreamed my healthy, active 6-year-old boy would be met with this challenge.'
As Branden enters his sixth month of a two-year chemotherapy treatment, the Barbone's lives have been torn apart. The Barbones said 'Every day changes. We never know what will happen next.' Both parents agree the most difficult part of the entire ordeal is seeing the change in Branden. The once energetic little boy now tires quickly and is plagued with sore muscles.
When the Barbone's received a call from Tammy Roehrig and Kevin McColgan this past summer, they weren't sure what to make of it. Tammy said, 'Let me introduce myself,' and told them what the couple wanted to do for them. They wanted to hold a benefit to help off-set the cost of caring for a child with cancer – the fourth annual Red Corner Road Benefit – and dedicate it to Branden. Mike said, 'We were overwhelmed.' They were both reluctant to receive such kindness from total strangers, but friends and family told them they needed to learn to accept help.
And, Branden isn't the first child with cancer Tammy and Kevin have helped. They held the first Red Corner Road Benefit in 2009 for Kiara B. Fox (A.k.a. KiKi) from Douglassville who had been diagnosed with Neuroblastoma, a rare form of cancer. In 2010 they dedicated the benefit to Alexa Bailey of Pottstown who was fighting Stage 4: High-risk Neuroblastoma. And in 2011 the benefit was dedicated to Brooke Hedrick who had been diagnosed with Stage 4 Hodgkins.
Each year the event offers participants live music from a variety of bands, food, beer and wine, entertainment for the kids, raffles, bonfires, fireworks, and much more. Each year they bring in something just for the recipient. Because of Branden's love of animals, this year a petting zoo was brought in, and Brandon got to feed a baby camel a bottle of milk. When asked what his favorite part of the day was, he said 'The peeing camel.' Last year, they brought a video game truck for Brooke. Alexa was able to be a rock-star for the day when she got up on stage and sang 'Hey Jude.' They bring everything back each year, including a Love for Lexi Rockstar Tent, where all the kids could sing and dance to Alexa's favorite music.
All the money raised, from the $25 admission to the raffle proceeds, goes to the family. The past three years drew approximately 200 people and raised about $5,000 for each family. This year, 527 people attended and $9,000 was raised for Branden and his family.
Through their ordeals and the Red Corner Road Benefit, Kiara, Alexa and Brooke became best buds. Brooke and Kiara, now cancer free, attended this year's event. Unfortunately, Alexa lost her battle with cancer November 7, 2011, but her family still attended this year's benefit to show their support for Branden and his family.
Beyond the money raised, the love, support and friendships developed from these annual events are priceless. Tammy says she would no longer consider her and Kevin as the main sponsors. She said, 'It has become such a community effort that there really is no one entity that is the force behind everything.' She added, 'I truly feel as though we are the ones that get the most out of it – meeting these kids has given us all a completely different perspective on life and the gifts we are given daily. They have changed our lives!'