Neighbors United aims to assist cancer patients in Chippewa schools

By: Alex Szwarc | C&G Newspapers | Published July 29, 2021

 Chippewa Valley High School Principal Todd Distelrath is one of three local people who will benefit from a Neighbors United fundraiser throughout August. He was diagnosed with cancer last November.

Chippewa Valley High School Principal Todd Distelrath is one of three local people who will benefit from a Neighbors United fundraiser throughout August. He was diagnosed with cancer last November.

Photo provided by Neighbors United

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CLINTON TOWNSHIP/MACOMB TOWNSHIP — August is set to be a busy time for Neighbors United.

That’s when the Macomb Township nonprofit organization will raise funds for three individuals impacted by cancer within Chippewa Valley Schools — Chippewa Valley High School Principal Todd Distelrath, Chippewa Valley High School senior Mitch Brand and Mohawk Elementary student Landon Morrison.

The fundraising campaign begins Aug. 1 through Rock Family of Companies matching funds competition.

The Rock Family of Companies includes businesses like Rocket Mortgage and Shinola.

“It’s a month-long fundraiser that Rock puts on,” Neighbors United President Joe Warne said. “We put out a link, people donate and Rock matches it based on their criteria.”

Warne, of Macomb Township, is a Macomb Township firefighter. He has become known in the community for walking across Michigan the last two years, raising funds for firefighters with cancer.

Brand was recently diagnosed with cancer and receives treatment at Children’s Hospital of Michigan.

In April, Brand’s family says he was working out when he thought he blew out his knee.  “We took him to the doctor, and they discovered osteosarcoma,” the family said. “He has a large cancerous tumor in his knee.”

Brand has nine rounds of chemotherapy, where his knee will be removed as well as about two inches of his femur, and then he will undergo nine more rounds of chemotherapy.

At the start of the 2020-2021 school year, Distelrath said he didn’t feel quite right, having stomach issues beyond normal.

He then went to his doctor and had a colonoscopy in November. It was at that point he was told he had stage two rectal cancer.

Distelrath is receiving treatment at the University of Michigan Medicine. That’s where he met with his oncologist, radiation oncologist, and surgeon.

Distelrath completed radiation in June and is scheduled to have surgery Aug. 30.

“Throughout everything, I have had incredible support from my family, my friends and my school community,” he wrote on Facebook. “I am blessed.”

Morrison, 9, was at football practice in March when he was hit hard in the chest, taking his breath away.

He was taken to an emergency room after indicating he was in tremendous pain. There, doctors found a tumor around all of the organs in his abdomen.

Morrison’s mom, Lori, said the family is humble and grateful that Neighbors United is offering to assist in this way.

He was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, a type of cancer that affects muscle tissue. His family says someone being diagnosed is a four-in-a-million occurrence.

Morrison is receiving chemo and radiation treatment at Ascension St. John Hospital. In June, he had surgery at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.

“In early June, his tumor responded well enough to the chemo that they agreed to surgically remove it,” his family notes. “It was a 12-hour surgery, and they were able to consider it a complete resection.

Currently, Morrison is still dealing with compression neuropathy from the surgery and has lost all feeling in his leg below his knee.

Lori anticipates the money will be used to alleviate medical costs.

Checks will be presented to the families during what Warne called cancer week in September. That will be just before Warne embarks on his 140-mile walk to Grand Rapids, beginning Sept. 9.

People can donate by visiting wedontjudge.org.

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