Dear Friends and Family,
As many of you know, I am currently teaching in the Winchester Public School System. The last three years have brought me 60 children eager to start Third Grade, ready to engage in meaningful learning activities and carry out a successful school year. I always ponder on the last day of school as to what each child will make of themselves, where they will go to college, and what type of career they may have when they grow to be an adult. Michael Dunleavy was a student in my class this year of whom I will never have the opportunity to ponder about.
At the end of Michael's Second Grade year, Michael was seen squinting as he attempted to read in his reading group at school. Mrs. Adams, Michael's Second Grade teacher agreed with the parents, in their decision to have Michael seen by his pediatrician, or an eye doctor to rectify his vision ailment. Michael's parents took him to their pediatrician where Michael had great difficulty following a simple eye exam, and was diagnosed with Sixth Nerve Palsy. Michael was immediately taken to Children's Hospital. Within hours Michael was diagnosed with a brain tumor the size of a golf ball in a part of the brain that was inoperable. Due to the tumor being cancerous and having spread to other areas of the brain, Children's Hospital gave Michael a short time to live. The Dunleavy Family, obviously determined to save their child's life, sought other opinions at Mass General Hospital and St Jude's children's hospital. The Family made a decision to treat Michael with chemotherapy and radiation, at Mass General Hospital.
Michael made it through the summer and started Third Grade in my class at the Vinson Owen Elementary school. He was a little bloated from the steroids, and had a slight limp due to the intensive radiation but somehow managed a smile as he walked through our classroom door everyday. As the weeks went by, the effects of the tumor became more evident. The boy that was always seen throwing the football at recess and reciting the statistics from the last Patriots game was now hanging out on the playground bench engrossed in a chapter book. He left our classroom 2 to 3 times a week a little early for medical appointments and every once in a while a student from our class would say "Michael, why do you get to leave early everyday?" Without batting an eyelash Michael would just say "I have a doctor's appointment and then I have to go to Karate." Determined and positive until the very end.
Michael Dunleavy died at Mass General Hospital on October 28, at 11:25 p.m. The last thing that Michael said to his parents was "Where's John?" John is Michael's brother who has Down Syndrome and also attends our school. He is commonly referred to by our staff as "The little King." It amazed me that in Michael's final hours he was thinking about the well being of his brother John. Michael leaves behind his brother Brian, two years of age, his sister Laura, six years of age, his sister Lucy, three years of age and his brother John, 12 years of age. Michael's parents have wonderful familial values and always strive to put their best foot forward. This situation has shed light and has gained me greater insight as to what really matters in life. In an effort to recognize the tremendous loss this family has gone through, the Vinson Owen Elementary School in Winchester will be having a road race/walk on Sunday, April 13 at 12:00 . The attachment is the flyer for the Race/walk. We are also coming together in an effort to raise money for brain cancer research, and programs for terminally ill children and their families.
The website for the Michael Dunleavy Foundation as well as registration information for the race/walk, can be found on the website at www.michaeldunleavy.com. Within two clicks of a button at the site you can register for the race and/or make a donation to the foundation. If you or your company would like to be part of our corporate sponsorship, the website has all of the information. (Our race sponsorship offers your company logo on the back of the race t-shirts, a link on the website to your company and more. Please go to the site for details) Donations may also be mailed to:
Michael J. Dunleavy Foundation, Inc.
P.O. Box 325
Winchester, MA 01890
If nothing else, please take a peek at the website and if you could make an attempt to forward this letter through your distribution list it would greatly be appreciated.