When the community and radio personalities gathered at the Saline Fire House last Friday, it was Ally Hennessey who starred in the show.
Ally, who turned nine Wednesday, lives with an inoperable brain tumor that five rounds of chemotherapy hasn’t been able to stop. It’s robbed her of vision in her left eye and is threatening to do the same in the right.
Here’s how you can support Ally Hennessey and her family as they seek new treatment for her inoperable brain tumor.
Buy a t-shirt online by June 15.
Donate on a Youcaring page.
Buy lemonade, bracelets or t-shirts at a lemonade stand at Saline Middle School from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., May 27, June and June 10.
Buy lemonade at lunch time (12:05 p.m.) June 6 at the Girls on the Run lemonade stand at Pleasant Ridge Elementary School.
Dine at Buffalo Wild Wings Sunday, May 21. Show a flier (check the Ally’s Pal’s Facebook age for the flier. The restaurant will donate 20 percent of food and drinks prices to Ally’s Pals.
Dine at Mancino’s Pizza in Saline from 4 p.m. to close, June 14. The restaurant will donate 20 percent of the proceeds to Ally.
Still, Ally, though keenly aware of the 47 scans she’s had during grueling treatment, is a sharp as a tack. When W4 Country’s Brian “Bubba” Cowan offered her free movie tickets for her birthday during a live interview, Ally sassily shot back, “I don’t like going to movies.”
Later in the morning, Ally said that going on the radio “was cool.”
She was already getting ready for her next adventure at Woodland Meadows Elementary School, where she was going to “teach” the “best fit” class Friday.
“I’m going to make the teacher do timed readings,” Ally said.
After all, the teacher had the students do the timed readings all year.
Around Saline, more and more people are taking up the fight alongside Ally. Last year, she hosted a lemonade stand that raised $4,500 for childhood cancer. This year, people in the community are raising money to support the family as it seeks new treatments for Ally. People are buying t-shirts in support of the Hennesseys. They’re donating online. They’re purchasing drinks and bracelets at community lemonade stands.
Ally’s mother, Shannon, admits to being surprised by the way the community has gathered to support her daughter.
“It’s amazing. We’re not lifelong residents of Saline. We’ve only been here a few years. I can’t even put into words how amazing it is that everyone cares so much about Ally and wants such a good outcome for her,” Shannon said. “It’s inspiring. It’s just great to be part of this community.”
Last year’s lemonade stand raised money for an organization that fights childhood cancer. But now, the community is raising money for the Hennessey family, who are searching for new treatment for Ally.
“When a child is diagnosed with a brain tumor, doctors have a first line of defense. They have a treatment plan and it either does or doesn’t work,” Shannon said.
For Ally, that meant five rounds of chemotherapy. Right now, she’s taking a drug that’s meant for melanoma. It showed promise last year, but it’s not working as well this year. Ally has lost all of her vision in her left eye and the vision in her right eye has deteriorated.
“We’d like to stabilize her tumor so that her vision improves in her right eye, so she could have some vision,” Shannon said.
The Hennesseys are pinning their hopes on the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.
“It was (the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute) that provided Ally with good treatment a few years ago. We hope their next, newest treatment will help Ally,” Shannon said.
The Hennessey family hopes Ally will be accepted for a trial.
The family is working to pull together all of Ally’s 43 scans for their application.
“47 scans,” Ally chirped. She’d been listening all along and she corrected her mother.
They’ll be sent to the cancer institute. If Ally is selected, the family will face all kinds of new costs.
“If you get into a trial you still have travel costs. So much is unknown. We don’t know if we’d be going to Boston once a week or once a month,” Shannon said.
At Woodland Meadows Elementary School, Ally’s classmates and teachers are filling jars with change every day. One of her teachers at the school is Elizabeth Musson. When asked to describe her pupil, Musson’s face lit up.
“Oh my gosh. She’s the best. She’s a hard worker. She doesn’t like to miss class. She doesn’t like to pulled from the class. She just wants to learn and have fun with all the kids,” Musson said.
Karen Derksen is a family friend. Derksen, a St. Louis native, got to know the Hennesseys a couple years ago, when she saw Ally’s father, Ed, wearing a St. Louis Cardinals jersey. Derksen’s son Jack was in second grade with Ally.
Derksen was experienced in fundraising in St. Louis and offered to help the Hennesseys when she learned of Ally’s illness. The Hennesseys didn’t need financial aid at the time. When they began planning for the trials in Boston, Shannon Hennessey gave Derksen the green light to start.
“It’s going to require travel and taking time off work. We’re just trying to do as much as we can right now,” Derksen said. “They’re a sweet family, who are going through a difficult ordeal and we want to help them as much as possible.”
You can keep up with Ally and her pals on Facebook.