Dragonfly: Lighting Sparks of Joy

Dragonfly: Lighting Sparks of Joy
Photography provided by The Dragonfly Foundation

A pediatric cancer diagnosis is one of the most frightening moments a child and their parents can face. Successfully navigating the post-diagnosis journey is daunting but necessary for maintaining a family’s emotional balance. Thankfully, for Cincinnatians, The Dragonfly Foundation is available as a supportive presence for such challenging times.

Founded in 2010, The Dragonfly Foundation provides strength, courage and joy to pediatric cancer patients and their families. Over the last 10 years, The Dragonfly Foundation has served more than 7,200 patients and families, helping to provide some levity, compassion and fun — even during the darkest days — by offering memorable patient/hospital events and experiences.

Every year, the Foundation hosts occasions that enable cancer patients and their families to connect and set aside their diagnosis for a brief time to soak in some moments of fun. This year was no different. As they have done since the Foundation’s inception, the Cincinnati Reds brought infinite joy to the Dragonfly families.

“We start the season the same way every year at the Opening Day Parade,” says Caroline DeGroft, Director of Communications and Marketing at Dragonfly. “This year, during the game, we were joined by FC Cincinnati star Brandon Vazquez and his wife, Jessie. The fun with the Reds lasts all season long for our Dragonflies. A few highlights included Elly De La Cruz wearing a Dragonfly wristband to show his support and Jonathan India selecting Dragonfly as his charity of choice for his partnership with Leovici.”

FC Cincinnati, the city’s professional soccer club, always shows a generous heart for Dragonfly. They continued to go above and beyond for the Dragonfly patients’ year by donating tickets and celebrating Childhood Cancer Awareness Month with the Foundation.

“They showed so much love to our families,” says DeGroft. “You may have even seen our Dragonflies on the pitch at the FC Kicks Childhood Cancer game on September 2, where we were recognized as the Community Partner of the game!”

The Joy Cart is also an essential Dragonfly outreach.

“Thanking the staff at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and Medical Center (CCHMC) who care for our patients is so important to us,” says DeGroft. “This year, we celebrated them each month with our Joy Cart.”

The Joy Cart is full of treats and pick-me-ups to show gratitude to the Cancer and Blood Disease Institute (CBDI) staff for the care they provide for the Dragonfly families. This year, CCHMC and CBDI employees were named the top children’s hospital for oncology in the United States by U.S. News & World Report’s Best Children’s Hospital Rankings.

Dragonfly families are grateful to the Foundation and its supporters for improving their quality of life. For years, Nick Hinds and his wife, Amanda, have been attending Dragonfly Foundation functions and participating in fundraisers to support this amazing organization. In March 2022, an MRI indicated cerebral disease in their son, Noah, who received a bone marrow transplant from his twin brother, Easton, making Noah a Dragonfly.

“At The Dragonfly Foundation, they not only invite the child dealing with the medical situation to these events but also the other family members. The Foundation recognizes that the entire family is impacted,” says Hinds. “I’m sure we will attend their events for years to come and try to reach out and do what we can to help them as much as they are trying to help us.”

When Brittany Ossege’s son, Elijah, was diagnosed with stage three Wilms tumor at just four years old, The Dragonfly Foundation became a godsend.

“We found our joy by seeing children play and feel included,” says Brittany. “It’s also nice having events to look forward to. That gets us through those hard days.”

To fund the special events and goodies, The Dragonfly Foundation hosted several major fundraisers in 2023, including The Dragonfly Foundation Grand Gala, the Annual Dragonfly Golf Classic and the inaugural Dinks & Drives for Dragonfly pickleball tournament.

“The 2023 Grand Gala was record-breaking,” says DeGroft. “With nearly 500 guests in attendance, Dragonfly honored the Cancer and Blood Disease Institute Social Work and Child Life Specialists teams from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and Medical Center. The event, presented by The Markley Family Foundation, raised the largest amount in its 12-year history!”

The 13th Annual Dragonfly Golf Classic started on the course with a chance for golfers to shoot their drive from a cannon and attempt to beat the pro. Golfers also got to hear from Matt Neitzke, the son of Christine Neitzke, Dragonfly’s Founder and Executive Director. Matt shared the story of his cancer battle that inspired his mother to establish The Dragonfly Foundation.

Dinks & Drives for Dragonfly was held at Lifetime Fitness in Mason, Ohio. Presented by TiER1 Performance Solutions, the event was a tremendous success. Co-chaired by Mike and Maria Fox, Dinks & Drives had two brackets with 96 participants. The day included the tournament, outdoor pickleball-themed games, raffle baskets and live music.

“We are endlessly grateful for the support and generosity of our donors,” says DeGroft. “We look forward to 2024 and all the strength, courage, and joy it will bring!”

Want to support The Dragonfly Foundation’s mission? Visit dragonfly.org for more information.

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