A Reason to Ring
Brandon’s Battle Foundation offers ways to support pediatric cancer patients.
When Lisa Gettel heard the bell ring at Penn State Health Children’s Hospital in Hersey, Pennsylvania, she knew a child had just completed chemotherapy or radiation treatments, and she anticipated watching her son, Brandon Hohenadel, ring that bell.
“That’s the final goal, to ring a bell,” Gettel, a Leland resident, says. “We’ve seen so many patients that never got to ring a bell.”
Brandon was one of them. Three days after he turned 18 in 2012, he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. An athlete and sports enthusiast, Brandon planned on majoring in sport management at Syracuse University when he graduated from Eastern York High School (EYHS). Fate took a turn, though, and after nearly four years of treatments, Brandon passed away in 2016 at the age of 21.
Breeana Taylor had a chance to ring that bell. Also a graduate of EYHS, she and Brandon became close friends while both received treatment for leukemia. “We were always laughing despite our serious situation,” she says. “He wanted others to laugh.”
Ringing that bell is important to Gettel, so she plans to arrange for pediatric cancer patients to receive a wind chime and “Chime Anytime.”
“Whenever they feel they have accomplished a personal goal, they can ring this chime,” Gettel says. A goal may be to brush their teeth by themselves, put their socks on or increase therapy from three minutes to five minutes.
Breeana, now working with child protective services in York, tells patients receiving a chime, “Look forward to your next goal, your next accomplishment no matter how big or small.”
Gettel is seeking $25 donations for her project. She buys three different 24-inch-long chimes, the butterfly, hummingbird and dragonfly, boxes them and includes a handwritten note to the patient.
She has targeted hospitals in North Carolina, but Children’s Hospital at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill is the only one yet to approve her request.
“People in [Brunswick County] need to realize there is no pediatric oncology hospital nearby,” Gettel says. “Chapel Hill and Durham are the closest. People don’t understand there is no other place to go.”
“Chime Anytime” is an extension of a project Gettel began in 2013 while Brandon was hospitalized. She and Brandon began giving goodie bags to parents and their children.
“We wanted to give a mom and child 10 minutes to an hour to do something together,” she says. The bags had to be approved by a child life specialist at the hospital in Hersey, and Gettel couldn’t deliver them in person. No food or drink was allowed, but Gettel and Brandon filled bags with crossword puzzle and brain teaser books, Play-Doh and jigsaw puzzles. “Things that were therapeutic and gave an emotional release,” Gettel says. Each bag was age-appropriate with $10 to $30 worth of merchandise. “I wanted that child to stop thinking about cancer,” Gettel says. “I wanted the moms to know other people were going through the same feelings they were going through.” Breeana has kept the orange drawstring bag she received.
The project motivated Gettel to form Brandon’s Battle Foundation and apply for 501(c)(3) nonprofit status in Pennsylvania, which it received in 2015. She says more than 600 children have received a goodie bag each year since she established the foundation.
When Gettel and her husband, Allen, moved to Leland in February 2020, they applied for and received nonprofit status in North Carolina. “All money we get in North Carolina, stays here,” she says. The couple have taken “car loads” of toys and games to N.C. Children’s Hospital five times since July 2020.
Gettel is now seeking sponsorships to cover costs of storing the massive numbers of items donated and contacts about 100 companies each week. “I don’t think they understand how important it is to a child to know somebody cares,” she says.
What has Gettel learned from her humanitarian journey? “Don’t take anything for granted,” she says. “I’m keeping Brandon’s name alive. I’m able to tell people how serious pediatric cancer is. People don’t know what hell families go through.”
Gettel has organized several fundraisers in Leland, which are listed on the website.
Upcoming fundraisers include a billiards tournament at Local’s Tavern on February 6; a Putt & Chip competition for ages 5 to 15 at Magnolia Greens Golf Club on March 27; and a golf tournament at Magnolia Greens on April 4. Shuckin’ Shack will have a cornhole tournament April 2.
Can you help?
Brandon’s Battle Foundation
Pediatric Cancer Support
Contact Lisa Gettel or visit the website for fundraiser event information, to make a donation or to find out about other ways to help.