It really does take a community. The change after paying for a meal at the Dayton-area Panera locations really added up. Each café collected all of those small donations for a couple of months this past summer, and it was enough to fund the Special Wish of a Mercer County child named Ally Bea. Covelli Enterprises has owned the Panera Bread cafés in the area for about a year now, and in that time they have made quite an impact in the Dayton region forming partnerships with many local organizations, including the Dayton Chapter of A Special Wish Foundation (ASW).
I had the honor of meeting up with Ally’s parents, Diane and Mark Roessner, while Ally was having her chemotherapy port removed. Through tears of remembrance, Diane and Mark shared their journey with their daughter and her siblings since their lives were turned upside down by cancer.
Just over two years ago, a seemingly unstoppable nose bleed brought the family to the emergency room and a subsequent blood test revealed acute lymphatic leukemia (ALL). Ally had been receiving chemotherapy at Dayton Children’s hospital until very recently
“The time has flown by,” recalled Mark. “When we first got the diagnosis, 26 months of chemotherapy sounded like forever.”
Adapting to what the family referred to as their “new normal”, the Roessners are “very proud of” their little girl Ally and how bravely she handled her long treatment.
Since they are from a small community in Mercer County, Ally has become a bit of a celebrity, according to her parents. The community and her school, Fort Recovery Elementary have been very supportive.
In the spirit of giving back, every year for the past three years the community comes together for a blood drive held at their school in honor of Ally. Since she received many blood transfusions during her treatment, Ally was the perfect spokesperson for this effort and helps keep up the awareness of childhood cancer.
“We didn’t want to keep her in a bubble,” remembered Mark Roessner, “we had to restrict her due to the risk of infection, but we kept her as active as she could tolerate.”
When asked what they are thankful for Mark Roessner responded easily with “a healthy family”, but after a few moments of thought Diane added, “I am especially thankful for modern medicine and what it does. As a pharmacist, I am keenly aware of what the latest pharmaceuticals and treatments can do for children like my daughter.”
Now that treatment is complete, the family is excited about creating another new normal focused on new and better memories and a gratefulness for each day.
Ally’s wish is to meet the princesses. Serena Walther, wish manager at ASW, did one better and was able to get Ally and her mom into a tea party with the princesses. She’ll be adorned in princess garb and sip tea with Disney princesses.
She also wishes to see the ocean. Ally and her parents and brother, Anthony, will be meeting up with family friends and plan to spend Thanksgiving Day at the beach, a perfect way to celebrate the end of Ally’s long battle.
Ally will officially receive her Special Wish at the Panera Bread location in Troy, Ohio, on Sunday, Nov. 15, at 2 p.m., ASW’s executive director Dave Seyer and wish manager Serena Walther will present all the details of the Roessner’s wish trip to Give Kids the World Village and the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando.
Panera/Covelli Enterprises will host the event to honor Ally and celebrate the end of treatment and the beginning of the next chapter.
“We are so happy to be involved with the Dayton Chapter of A Special Wish Foundation and especially with Ally and her family,’ remarked Jessica Cavaliere, regional marketing director for Covelli. “The support of our amazing customers made this possible, so we also want to thank them.”
Like Covelli Enterprises, the Dayton Chapter of A Special Wish Foundation relies on the support of the local community to thrive! Take a moment to LIKE ASW on Facebook at ASpecialWishDayton to get more information about ASW, our wish families, upcoming events or to make a donation.
The writer is the Marketing and Development manager for the Dayton, Ohio Affiliate Chapter of A Special Wish Foundation Inc., which serves Montgomery, Darke, Mercer, Miami, Greene and Shelby counties.