Festival of Trees begins Friday
A new nonprofit intends to light up the holiday season while brightening the lives of a local family.
“Little Superheroes,” a new organization that aims to help Southeast Iowa families facing serious medical crises when caring for chronically ill children, has selected a family to benefit from its first fundraising event called Festival of Trees, which begins at 10 a.m. Friday.
According to a Little Superheroes press release, the festival will feature hundreds of decorated trees, wreaths, garlands, posts and numerous other holiday items downtown on the west side of the Fairfield square, below the Elks Lodge.
“The festival is a fundraiser where you can buy a tree for Little Superheroes, and the organization will donate part of the proceeds to the Lanferman family [of Rome, Iowa]” said Little Superheroes and festival organizer Christie Davis Kessel. “We’re very excited about helping our first family. We feel the cause is worthy and we are happy to be able to make their struggle a little easier.”
Jeremy and Deana Lanferman’s oldest son, Flynn, was diagnosed with acute Lymphoblastic leukemia when he was 3 years old.
Flynn, who is now 12 years old, has already undergone three bone marrow transplants at the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital. Between 2008 and 2016, Flynn suffered a total of three relapses.
“The first two donors were stranger donors, but they were 100 percent matches,” Deana Lanferman said, adding that Flynn’s last transplant, which occurred this year, came from his father, Jeremy, who was a 50 percent match.
“So far so good! We’re 50-plus days out [after the] transplant, and he’s doing great,” she said.
Before receiving his last bone marrow transplant, Flynn underwent a blinatumomab treatment, which is type of therapy aimed at battling lymphoblastic leukemia.
Where traditional chemotherapy remains inside of the bloodstream, Lanferman said blinatumomab actually searches out and destroys cancer cells from head to toe.
“That’s what got us into remission, and then we went into the half match transplant, which comes on a little stronger than a perfect match. It will go out and find whatever cancer cells are [left],” she said.
The Lanfermans are happy and hopeful.
“He’s driving us nuts; he’s getting into a lot of trouble,” she chortled, adding that Flynn, a fifth-grader, will likely have to stay out of school for a year.
Deana said Flynn has a new physician who mentioned that he might be able to return to school after spring break next year.
“He missed the second half of kindergarten, three-quarters of first grade, he missed fourth grade,” she said, commenting that she’s had to let a job go during each of Flynn’s bone marrow transplants.
“My husband has a very good job, but it only allows us to pay the bills; they eat a lot,” she said her three sons, Flynn, 11, Ronan, 8, and Jac, 4. “This donation will help, because you want to stay as normal as you can in any situation. This gift they are giving us, will allow us to celebrate the holidays and be able to breath.”
In addition to benefitting local families like the Lanfermans, Little Superheroes donates funds toward medical research for life threatening intestinal issues.
Kessel started the organization to help families after her own daughter, Valerie, was diagnosed with chronic intestinal pseudo-obstruction.
Valerie was diagnosed with the disease as an infant, after undergoing multiple tests, emergency surgery and receiving a variety of medications.
Kessel said she understood the financial burden and stresses that a family can deal with when one of their children is diagnosed with a chronic illness and she wanted to do something to help.
During The Festival of Trees, anyone is welcome to stroll through the tree room and enjoy the display of live and artificial trees. One tree was decorated especially for Flynn, with his favorite Hawkeye team colors.
Local businesses donated an array of items to be raffled off to benefit the organization.
The festival will last from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. Friday and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Kessel said anyone is welcome to purchase a tree in support of the organization.
“Trees range in price from $25 to $1,000,” Kessel said.
The Lanferman family presentation will be after 4 p.m. Saturday.
For more information, contact Kessel at 233-7600.