Berthoud teen battling cancer gifted a holiday season surprise
When an adult is diagnosed with cancer the future that before seemed so certain suddenly becomes blurry, but when a child is diagnosed the future for a family is altered.
Dec. 24, 2005, was the day that changed everything for a Berthoud family. Josiah Speer who at the time was just 3 years old fell and hit his head. When he didn’t come-to right away 911 was called and the boy was rushed to the emergency room. The thought was that he had done little more than broke his nose but a CT scan revealed a brain tumor. Josiah was then taken by ambulance to Children’s Hospital in Denver where they performed a biopsy and were hopeful of removing the tumor. Hope dwindled when the doctors realized the tumor was intertwined with his brain stem and removing the tumor was too risky. The biopsy showed that this type of tumor was a non-aggressive juvenile pilocytic astrocytoma (JPA). He underwent 18 months of weekly chemotherapy.
In May 2012 at one of his six-month checkups, an MRI showed that the tumor had started growing again. Josiah underwent a procedure to place a stint followed by another 18 months of weekly chemotherapy.
In October 2020 it was discovered that Josiah, now 18 and a senior, has relapsed once again and this time the treatment plan is unknown. Unfortunately, surgery is still not an option. The oncology team is in the process of testing the previous biopsy from 2005 to try and find a more targeted treatment.
For many families in Berthoud 2020 has been difficult to say the least but with Josiah’s relapse, his family, Dad and Stepmother Kirk and Crystal Speer, and his mother and stepfather Kristen and Joshua Bertolini, along with four other siblings have received an especially hard blow.
To help bring some encouragement to Josiah and his family Let’s PLANet Giving, Inc. a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization in Berthoud has been diligently working on a project that will roll out Dec. 26 and 27.
The group is planning a complete bedroom makeover at the Bertolini’s home including new furniture, décor, office furniture, computer, and a few surprises to provide a safe, comfortable, and healthy environment where Josiah can rest and continue his online schooling. The rest of the family will also be given some surprises as well along with an all-expense paid overnight trip to Denver to make some fun family memories together while the work is going on. This will be a rare time of relaxation and fun for the family of seven.
The organization spearheading the effort is the philanthropic branch of local wedding and event planning business Let’s PLANet owned by Suzanne Doles. When asked how her organization got involved with projects like this Doles said, “In the past 15 years of living here we have been exposed to a lot of children with childhood cancer in our community. After years of doing fundraisers to help these children and families, we decided to make it official and open a nonprofit organization.”
Contributions have come in from UPS who Doles said generously donates a grant for each one of the makeovers the organization has done. Other contributors include Thrivent Financial, Walmart Distribution Center, American Furniture Warehouse, Scheels Sporting Goods and support from New Freedom Outreach Center. Doles said both corporate and individual generosity are the fuel for the projects to get off the ground, “We rely heavily on donations to make this happen.”
Many items on the makeover Wishlist have been donated for the teen who loves working on his car, movies, cooking and French press coffee but a few items have proven harder to come by. One of Josiah‘s requests was a PlayStation 5, Doles said they have been unable to find one. He also enjoys working on his ’95 Mazda Miata and is need of upholstery and a hardtop, but again those items have remained elusive.
The organization is also in need of gas cards, restaurant gift certificates and grocery cards to give to the families they assist, “It is such a blessing for the family to be getting gift cards and certificates…It is always the biggest request that parents ask for,” Doles said.
For more information, to make a family nomination, volunteer or to donate to this project or others through Let’s PLANet Giving visit www.letsplanetgiving.org.
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