Over the last six months, friends and neighbors of all ages have been coming together to show their support for the family of Olivia Bonfilio, a nine-year old third grade student at in Medfield, who was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia in November.
On May 22, they will have a chance to participate in a to help raise money for the family to pay their mounting medical bills.
“It’s about $1 million that they owe because Olivia’s been in Children’s Hospital for the last six months, and six weeks of that was in the Intensive Care Unit,” said Kathleen Kelley Bonfilio, one of Olivia’s three aunts who are organizing the “Walk for Olivia” walk-a-thon to be held at .
Olivia is the daughter of Laurie and Alfred Bonfilio, formerly of Dedham.
According to the family, one week before her ninth birthday, Olivia was taken to the doctor after she lost a tooth that would not clot. She was soon rushed to Children's Hospital in Boston, where she was diagnosed with a rare form of acute promyelocytic leukemia.
She spent her birthday and the holidays in the hospital.
Olivia was in her fourth round of Chemotherapy and was doing well when she suddenly developed an infection in her blood that required her to be sedated and intubated.
“She’s a strong little girl; she’s a fighter,” said Kathleen Kelley Bonfilio.
Olivia returned home last week but will not be well enough to attend the May 22 walk, however she will watch it from her nearby home.
“The Bonfilio family's home overlooks the High School track and it would be so uplifting for them to see a sea of orange [the official color of leukemia] out their window or off their deck on May 22,” said family friend Luanne Monahan.
Organizers are encouraging walk participants to wear orange in a creative way. A trophy will be awarded for the most creative orange t-shirt, and the most creative footwear. A third trophy will be awarded to Olivia (via her parents) for being Most Courageous.
Participants will receive a bead as they complete a lap around the track. Those beads can then be used in a beaded bracelet, necklace or anklet at the end of the walk.
People throughout the community have been helping the family in their time of need.
A roofing company stepped up to finish a partial repair to the family home, someone donated firewood when the family ran out, a landscaping company has been maintaining the Bonfilio yard, and a dance studio has donated free dance lessons when Olivia is feeling up to it.
Wheelock School Principal Patty Allen said students in the school have been making and selling friendship bracelets and holding lemonade stands to raise money for their friend.
In February, when Olivia was visiting the school, her classmates scrubbed the tables to protect Olivia from germs and also wore orange caps “because they didn’t want her to feel funny about being the only one without hair.”
“They have a phenomenal amount of support; so many people are stepping up to help,” said Allen. “The family themselves is just amazing.”
To show your support for the family, consider participating in the Walk for Olivia on May 22, rain or shine, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Medfield High School Track, 88R South Street.
A donation of $25 per family or $5 per person is requested.
To register, send a check payable to The Olivia Foundation with your name, the number of participants, and your email or mailing address to Camille M. Vito, F/B/O The Olivia Foundation, 286 Main Street, Kingston, MA 02364, or drop it off at the Wheelock School. Registration will also be accepted on the day of the event.
Tax exempt monetary donations can be sent to “The Olivia Foundation” c/o Dedham Savings Bank, 55 Elm Street, Dedham, MA 02026 or dropped off at any branch office.
For more information, visit “The Olivia Foundation” on Facebook , or call Kathleen Kelley Bonfilio at (857) 719-1009 or Camille Bonfilio Vito at (781) 475-7890.
Olivia has also been named the official “pedal partner” for the PMC Medfield Kids Ride to be held on Sunday, May 15 (walk-ins welcome). The purpose of a “pedal partner” is to put a face to the disease for which children are raising research dollars.
Olivia will also be honored at Fenway Park on Saturday, May 14 as a “pedal partner” for the 2011 Pan-Massachusetts Challenge. She has been paired with a team of PMC cyclists who will ride in the event this summer in her honor.