The Kings Park community is pulling together to host a fundraiser to support one of their own who was diagnosed with cancer in December.
R.J.O. Intermediate school student Frank Loeffler III, 11, is fighting a battle with embryonal habdomyosarcoma, a rare form of cancer that most commonly occurs in children. It only accounts for 3 percent of pediatric cancers, with about 350 new cases diagnosed each year in the U.S., according to the American Cancer Society.
Frank Loeffler Jr., young Frank’s father, remembers the exhausting and heartbreaking lead up to learning that his son had cancer.
“It was just an ear infection, a virus we were thinking.” Loeffler said. “It was a shocker.”
His son had a pain in his ear, but it quickly became a numbness that went all the way down to his chin.
“We were blindsided, that’s the best word,” said Nicole Schweitzer, Frank’s cousin and the fundraiser’s organizer. “You don’t think an ear infection is going to turn into that.”
The middle schooler is currently undergoing a six-week treatment at ProCure Proton Therapy Center in Somerset, New Jersey, where he is in the process of receiving proton radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
“He’s hanging in there. He’s strong and brave, the kid’s my hero,” his father said.
The Loeffler family, friends and community members were quick to help lend their support. Chris Stillwell, Frank’s pack leader for Boy Scout Troop 539, helped to organize weekly meals for family members who spent so much time on the road visiting hospitals.
“The boys felt his absence right away, but the outpouring from the pack was overwhelming,” Stillwell said. “The boys, the moms and the dads wanted to do something, so [they] set up a food train and delivered food to them once a week.”
Frank has continued to participate in the Boy Scout troop’s activities, even placing in the top four out of 50 contestants in the Pinewood Derby last month.
“We were blindsided, that’s the best word. You don’t think an ear infection is going to turn into that.”
— Nicole Schweitzer
Loeffler said his son is doing well so far, and that the radiation has reduced the tumor by nearly half.
“He’s strong,” he said.
The Loeffler family hopes to raise $50,000 through donations. The money will go toward paying for Frank’s medical treatments and a portion of the money will also go toward Ronald McDonald House Charities and The Pediatric Cancer Foundation.
“When a child has cancer, the first thing people want to do is help, they want to help right away. ‘How can we get involved, can we do this or we do that,’ it blew up really quickly,” Schweitzer said. “Everybody knows my family so we’ve had a tremendous amount of support so far, and I’m mind-blown as to how many people have committed to coming to the fundraiser.”
Schweitzer said they have been advertising for about a month and more than 200 people have committed to come to the fundraiser so far.
They also contacted Joe Mango, the president of Kings Park nonprofit organization Angels Without Faces whose mission is to provide financial assistance to families and individuals going through hardship, to help promote the event. He said he expects the event to do well.
“This town is just a phenomenal fundraising town,” Mango said. “I’ve seen three fundraisers all go off in the same weekend and they’ve all been successful.”
The fundraiser will take place at Shanahan’s Bar and Grill at 515 Old Dock Road in Kings Park on Saturday from 1 to 5 p.m. There is a $30 cash donation at the door. The family has also set up a page on www.YouCaring.com for people to donate. Those who wish to donate can search “Frank Loeffler” on YouCaring or go to www.angelswithoutfaces.com.