S. ABINGTON TWP. — Matthew McDonnell, who has been battling stage IV Wilm’s tumor (kidney cancer) since age 3, raised funds for pediatric cancer by warming the community up with hot cocoa at South Abington Park last winter.
Last Saturday, the now 8-year-old boy supported the same cause but this time let participants enjoy ice cream before summer comes to an end.
At an event called Matthew’s Miraculous Ice Cream Social underneath the Hillside Park pavilion, friends and family members of the McDonnell family lined up to donate and consume scoops of Neapolitan ice cream in a cup served by Matthew, his grandfather Patrick McDonnell, Sr. and his friends. Children helped themselves to yummy toppings such as whipped cream and sprinkles placed on one of the picnic tables.
“It’s another great outpouring of the community,” said Matthew’s father Patrick McDonnell, Jr. “This community has been standing behind Matthew supporting him the entire time.”
Community members included Johnna Jalowiec and Bobbie Kromko, who have been helping with past fundraisers, which raised money for Matthew to be treated at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). They remember organizing baskets at a fundraiser called “Keep Fighting Matt.”
“Anytime his (Matthew’s) family needs help, we will be here,” said Kromko.
Nine-year-old Abby Gretzula, a friend of the McDonnells, took over scooping ice cream when Matthew took a break to play with his friends at the park’s playground.
Matthew hoped to match the money he raised during the hot cocoa stand — $8,000. All proceeds will go to Alex’s Lemonade Stand, which raises awareness of pediatric cancer as well aids research for better treatments and possibly a cure.
“He is very spiritual,” said Matthew’s proud grandmother Joyce McDonnell. “He’s been through a lot but he’s still smiling.”
Joyce remembers during a past Christmas season when Matthew was a patient at CHOP, he asked the nurses if he could pass presents to his fellow children and tell them “May God bless you’.”
“Every night, Matthew prays for the children, and he even knows them by name,” she said.
Joyce said she doesn’t know what kind of fundraiser Matthew will attempt next but she does know that, whatever he decides, she and the rest of his family will support him 100%.
Despite the weather being on the chilly side last weekend, the event was filled with friends and community members who came to support Matthew’s cause.
“It was a great turnout,” said Matthew’s mother Linda McDonnell. “The community always comes out and supports us. We are so grateful.”
Ten-year-old Maeve Ludka, right, of Clarks Summit, eats ice cream with her little sister Celia, 7.
Seven-year-old Matthew McDonnell, front center, who came up with the idea of an ice cream social to fund pediatric cancer, poses for a photo with his friends near the stand.