by Cori Hilsgen
Family and friends of Riley Petron, 2, have organized a carnival benefit from 11 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Saturday, July 27 at the Resurrection Lutheran Church.
Riley is the middle child of Jake and Sadie Petron, both age 25, of St. Joseph. He has an older brother, Landon, 4; and a younger sister, Isabella, 8 months.
In March, Petron was diagnosed with a very rare form of neuroblastoma. In fact, it’s so rare there are only 80 cases worldwide.
Petron’s maternal grandmother, Joan Holtz, helps care for him and his siblings when their parents work. Sadie works part-time mornings at Old Navy and Jake works nights at DCI Inc.
In January, Holtz noticed Petron was running a low-grade temperature. Originally doctors thought he was fighting a virus. At his two-year exam, they did a blood draw and a hematologist from Minneapolis Children’s Hospital noticed something wasn’t normal.
Doctors found a softball-size tumor on Petron’s adrenal gland and removed it.
The tumor was dissected and sent to other hospitals for research. It was discovered Petron has an amplification of the N-myc gene which will turn healthy cells into cancer cells and create more tumors.
Because it’s so rare, Petron’s doctors consulted worldwide to determine how to treat his case.
They decided to treat it with the same aggressive treatment used for stage 4 cancer patients. Petron will undergo six rounds of chemotherapy treatments. He is currently on his fifth round and has had very little time to recover in between each treatment. He has needed platelets and transfusions.
Petron will have one month of rest before he is given a stem-cell transplant. Then he will receive radiation, auto-immune therapy and will undergo scans every three months.
Holtz lost her job two years ago when her employer closed business and is glad she is able to help take care of the Petron children and their two dogs, Tinkerbell and Chloe. Her husband, Dean, is an over-the-road truck driver and is often away on the road.
Holtz said they originally had thought Petron was OK after the removal of the tumor.
The Holtzes’ house had burned in May 2012, and in March 2013 they hosted a party to show their appreciation for all the help they received from friends when rebuilding their house. Resurrection Church associate pastor Linda Lagergren had said prayers of thanks for their new home and that Petron’s tests had come back clear. Holtz said they received the call about Petron two days after the party. She remembers what a shock it was.
Holtz said it has been especially hard on Riley’s brother, Landon. He misses his parents who have to be gone so much of the time.
Jake’s mother died of melanoma at the age of 39, when he was 15. His father, John, is legally blind.
The Holtzes have been members of Resurrection for 26 years, and Sadie was the first baby baptized in the new church.
A new member of the church, Randy Maile, heard about Petron and decided they needed to do a benefit for him and his family. Pastor Lagergren is helping organize the benefit, along with many other people.
The event includes a picnic chicken dinner, silent auction and carnival games. Silent auction items donated include a signed Adrian Peterson Vikings football jersey, Vikings game tickets, a trip to Mexico and other items.
All proceeds will go to the Petron family to help with medical and household expenses.
If anyone would like to contribute a monetary donation they can do so by sending it to the “Riley Petron Benefit” at Central Minnesota Credit Union, P.O. Box 87, St. Joseph, MN 56374. If anyone would like to donate to the silent auction they can call Holtz at 320-260-6044.
Hilsgen is a contributing reporter for the Newsleaders. The central Minnesota native is a wife, mother and grandmother. She has a Bachelor's degree in Organizational Management and Communication from Concordia University – St. Paul, MN and enjoys learning about and sharing other people's stories through the pages of the Newsleaders.