This past Saturday marked the second annual Walk for Olivia Bonfilio, a 10-year old fourth grader at who was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia in November 2010.
Olivia had a bone marrow treatment on June 1 and was not able to attend the walk in her honor but was there in spirit as many photos of her were set up around the walk.
“She’s looking good now,” said Olivia’s aunt, Camille Bonfilio Vito, who helped organize as a way to help the family pay its mounting medical bills.
Olivia is the daughter of Laurie and Alfred Bonfilio, formerly of Dedham.
Though this year’s event had fewer attendees than last year – perhaps because of conflicting dance recitals, graduations, and sport championships (last year’s event, which was attended by more than 700 people, was held in May) – the family could not say enough about the community that has supported them in their time of need.
“From my family I want to say the most heartfelt thank you to not only my sister-in-law [Vito] who did all this work but to this town that has supported us now for almost two years,” said Lauri Bonfilio, Olivia’s mother. “It just seems when you’re at your last string, they come and pick you up and carry you through. It is so unbelievable. It is amazing. People are coming out of the woodwork to ask what they can do to help.”
One week before Olivia’s ninth birthday in 2010, she was taken to the doctor after she lost a tooth that would not clot. She was soon rushed to Boston Children's Hospital where she was diagnosed with a rare form of acute promyelocytic leukemia.
Today, she attends school Monday through Thursday, when she is well enough, and goes to the Jimmy Fund on Fridays, said her mother. Olivia can Skype with her classroom when she cannot attend school.
“Our main thing is to keep her in school with her friends that she’s grown up with,” said Bonfio, noting Olivia does not have the strength to do many of the extra-curricular activities she loves, like Girl Scouts.
Bonfilio said the school system, particularly Olivia’s teachers – last year at Wheelock and this year at Dale Street – have been incredible.
“Both of her teachers – Mrs. Olsen and Mrs. Crable – are cancer survivors and the school nurse Kathy Thompson used to work at Children’s Hospital,” she said, noting that Olivia takes chemotherapy every day and will for the next 18 months.
“And the kids are just amazing kids,” she said of Olivia’s classmates and friends, adding that, last year, at the first Walk for Olivia, five of her friends made bracelets and after the event presented Olivia with a shoebox filled with $900.
At this year’s walk, there were bracelets and newly-designed "Olivia: Liv Strong" t-shirts for sale as well as stations for face painting, designing your own card, and decorating different items with the color orange (the official color for leukemia awareness).
DJ Mike of World Class Entertainers in Brockton played motivational music as walkers moved around the high school track then celebrated with oranges and water donated by the Medfield Public School system.
There were also several raffles with a grand prize of a one-night’s stay at the Fairview Inn in Marshfield.
Bonfilio said “there are so many people to thank” particularly the Elias, Grant, Lyman, Pike, Reissfelder, Turnbull, Vito, Woodman and Bonfilio families; Kathy McDonnell; Roberta and Hector Medal; Melissa Parr of Decor & More; the Medfield Public Schools and Athletic Department; and DJ Mike of Brockton.
“We still have a long road ahead of us but we have this town that’s unbelievable,” said Bonfilio. “I just can’t say it enough: A whole heartfelt thank you from my family to the whole town for their continued support. We really, really, really appreciate it.”
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 Camille Bonfilio Vito at (781) 475-7890 or Kathleen Kelley Bonfilio at (857) 719-1009.