The community is rallying around a Shelton family that is battling childhood cancer 18 months after the father died in an unexpected tragedy.
“It’s a really great community,” said an appreciative Marybeth McPadden.
Her 10-year-old son, Raymond III, was diagnosed with Burkitt’s lymphoma in April and now is undergoing week-long chemotherapy sessions at Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital.
Marybeth left her job as an attorney to spend more time with Ray, including being with him during those extended hospital stays.
In February 2013, Ray’s father and Marybeth’s husband — Raymond McPadden Jr. — died at age 49 when trying to shovel out his vehicle in the massive snowstorm that left almost three feet of snow in Shelton.
Marybeth described her son as “very outgoing, funny, athletic and smart. He’s a very happy kid, with lots of friends. Everything you could say about my husband you can say about my son.”
She said Ray — who has been nicknamed Shelton’s Superman — is known for being “very charming, and now he’s charming all the nurses.”
Shelton resident Peggy Camp and other friends of the McPaddens are organizing a “Ray of Hope” fund-raiser to help the family on Sunday, Aug. 24, from 1 to 6 p.m. at Bricks & Barley, 441 Howe Ave.
Tickets are $25 for adults and $10 for kids 12 and younger; they are being sold in advance but it’s expected they also will be available at the door.
The event will include a buffet (courtesy of Bricks & Barley), entertainment, raffles, and the sale of special T-shirts and bracelets. Learn more by contacting Camp at firstname.lastname@example.org or 203-922-2618.
Helping a friend
Camp’s son Dylan, 10, is friends with the young Ray. They have played baseball, football and basketball together.
Their families have participated in many of the same activities as the children have grown up.
Peggy Camp also is a breast cancer survivor, having been diagnosed twice with the disease.
“I know the toll this can take on you and your family, and can’t imagine what it’s like for a 10-year-old to go through it,” she said.
As soon as she heard about Ray’s illness, Camp said, she went into “fund-raising mode.” That began by organizing a “meal train,” in which people volunteer to prepare and deliver meals to the McPadden home on a regular basis to take one less burden off the family.
She said so many individuals have helped. “People can’t give enough — they’re cooking and giving money,” Camp said.
McPadden said she appreciates everything people are doing for her family. “I can’t believe how quickly they have mobilized,” she said. “It’s like as soon as the word out, things started happening.”
She said this has included the meal train, gift cards, a GoFundMe.com crowd-funding donation site as well as the Aug. 24 event. Recently, her high school friends organized a fund-raiser in her native Massachusetts.
Marybeth McPadden said it was “devastating” to learn her son was ill in April, especially just a year after she and her children had to deal with Raymond Jr.’s unexpected death.
“As a mom, there’s nothing you can do about it and I don’t have my husband around anymore,” she said.
Her son first began complaining of stomach pains in January, which they thought might be connected to anxiety related to the one-year anniversary of his father’s death. A series of doctor visits and tests eventually found the problem was cancer.
Ray had an initial round of outpatient chemotherapy but cancer remained in his body, so a new round of more intense in-patient chemo was started. At least four week-long stays at the hospital will be required.
He now is scheduled to receive a stem-cell transplant, which involves harvesting healthy cells from his body once in remission.
McPadden also has a daughter, Christina, 7, whose father was Ray Jr., and she has a 22-year-old stepson Michael through her late husband.
Christina is having a particularly difficult time with her brother’s illness. “It’s been hard on her,” Marybeth said.
Family has been supportive, and her parents come down regularly from Massachusetts to spend time at their Shelton home — including to stay with Christina when Ray and his mom are in the hospital.
Marybeth has spent much of the past few months at her son’s side. That has meant making many adjustments, including the decision to leave her New Haven law firm position so she could “focus exclusively on him.”
She said the illness has prevented Ray from doing many of the things he likes to do, such as playing sports and hanging out with his friends.