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Montville police raise funds for two families affected by cancer

Montville — Town police have extended their fundraising efforts this year into December to continue supporting two local cancer patients: a mother and a 4-year-old boy.

This is the department's fifth year participating in No Shave November, a monthlong awareness and fundraising effort in which participants let their hair grow to support those who can't.

Officers in the department typically are not allowed to grow beards but the mayor allows them to for the month of November. Upon request, Mayor Ron McDaniel this year said they could extend their donations and continue growing their beards in December.

Officer Karen Aleshire, president of the department's union, said each officer donates at least $50 for each month to participate in the campaign. Members of the public also can make donations by sponsoring officers. The department also has sold pink patches since Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, with all profits going to the two families.

To buy a patch, make a donation or sponsor an officer, members of the public can go to the department at 911 Route 32 in Uncasville or talk to an officer.

Last year the money the department raised went to retired Sgt. Dennis Mathers, whose daughter was diagnosed with breast cancer and had to have a double mastectomy. Previous to that, their donations went to an organization and a police officer in another city.

Aleshire wanted to continue aiding local families. As a school resource officer, she said she reached out to school principals. She asked if they had families in their schools who have been affected by cancer and could use extra assistance.

She heard back from two schools, Mohegan Elementary and Oakdale School.

At Mohegan Elementary, teacher Lisa Kaplan vouched for a student's mother who was diagnosed with breast cancer two and a half years ago. Her name and ethnicity has been undisclosed for her privacy and safety.

Kaplan sent an email to Aleshire. She told her the mother had gotten very sick, lost her hair and had to quit her job due to treatments.

A few months before the coronavirus pandemic, Kaplan said she noticed the mother was visibly better. The mother approached her to tell her that her cancer was gone.

But the mother's cancer returned this past summer and since the beginning of the school year, it has reached her bones. Kaplan said the financially struggling family faces the hardship of medical bills, gas and parking fees, and lost wages.

"Not only would this financial support mean the world to this family, it would be an incredible gesture of kindness toward a family who chose to make America their home and realize a dream for their children," Kaplan wrote in her email.

Oakdale Elementary staff directed Aleshire to the Lundy family. The family has a 4-year-old son named Bennett "Benny" Lundy who has a rare cancer called Langerhans cell histiocytosis, or LCH. The Day covered his Make-A-Wish event in July.

A Navy family, the Lundys moved to Montville this year to be closer to where Benny receives treatments at Connecticut Children's Medical Center in Hartford.

Benny is more than a year into chemotherapy, having started in October 2020. In his early stages, cancer was found in his liver, pituitary gland, lymph nodes in his neck and lymph nodes in his stomach.

He now is on two chemotherapy regimens plus high doses of steroids, but there has been little change in his tumors. His one-year scan showed new lesions in his liver and some in his brain.

"Benny is still one of the happiest kid you would ever meet," Stephanie Lundy wrote in an email to Aleshire. "You'd never know by how he acts that he has cancer."

The Lundys need financial assistance to supplement their insurance, pay for medications, gas for traveling and for their piles of medical bills.

The police department so far has raised more than $5,000 from selling patches and officers' donations. If the fundraiser reaches $10,000, Aleshire has pledged to allow Benny, his brother James and his classmates to shave her head.

Aleshire said the Montville firefighters union also has been very supportive and is making a donation directly to the Lundy family.

"Our family is honored that our local police have opened their hearts to support Benny in his fight," Stephanie Lundy said to The Day. "We moved to Oakdale not knowing how much we'd be helped out and how much love and support we would get from strangers."

j.vazquez@theday.com

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