Over the past two years, we here, at The York Dispatch, have told the story of Brandon Hohenadel — an Eastern York High School graduate who's battled acute myeloid leukemia over the past couple years of his life.
As Brandon and his family battled, so too did the York County community. As he continuously found himself in and out of Hershey Medical Center, receiving bone marrow transplants and dealing with other illnesses that came with the constant procedures, the outpouring of support from family, friends and strangers within the community was noticeable.
His family started a foundation in his name, the "Brandon's Battle Foundation," which raised money to help fund the cost of putting together goody bags to give to other pediatric patients. The bags were full of activities that they could spend time completing as they were pent up inside hospital rooms for weeks on end. One of the largest ways that the foundation raised money was through its annual golf outing, held at Cool Creek Golf Club in Wrightsville.
This past Saturday was the second installment of the "Brandon's Battle" golf outing and, as I'm sure many of you can recall, it was one of the ugliest days this area has seen since winter ended. Temperatures dipped into the mid-60s and rain pummeled down sideways because the winds were so strong. I had to contact Brandon's mother, Lisa, the night before just to be sure the golf outing was still scheduled. It was.
I expected to show up and only a handful of golfers to even still be out there braving the conditions. They already paid their foursome fee of $280 and, in a charitable event, really, the money raised is what is most important, so why should they feel the need to show up and golf in miserable weather?
But, as I've taken notice over the last several months covering the area, the York County community rallies behind its high school students — past and present — when they're faced with unfortunate illnesses. Saturday was no different.
Thirty teams showed up for the outing, braving the elements and then sloshed into the clubhouse banquet room with rain-soaked clothes clinging to their bodies, but with smiles on their faces and laughs abundant.
Unfortunately, Brandon couldn't be there to see the support that he was receiving.
After being diagnosed with graph vs. host disease, he was, once again, admitted into Hershey Medical Center and will be there for the next couple weeks.
Aside from the golf, it was supposed to be a special day for Brandon and the rest of the Hohenadel family. Saturday would've been the first time that Brandon and his donor, David Brant would meet.
There's a one-year waiting period between when the transplant takes place and when donor and patient can meet. Earlier in the spring, that one-year time frame expired and the two were set to meet for the first time, face-to-face, at the charity golf outing. They'd been communicating via text messaging and other forms of instant messaging over the last few months.
Brant is from Simsbury, Connecticut and recently graduated college from Central Connecticut State University. The near-300-mile distance separating David and Brandon made it difficult to set up their first meeting, so they targeted Saturday as that moment. But, as David and the rest of his family made the trek southbound, they learned of Brandon's new complications and realized that this weekend also wouldn't be that special moment. Still, they made the trip anyway.
"It was about a week ago that we found out that everything was taking a little bit of turn for the worst," David said. "But, we decided that we still wanted to come out and show our support for him."
The relationship between donor and patient is forever bonding and powerful, a feeling I got back in April when Lisa told me that David "literally saved Brandon's life."
Had Brandon and David met for the first time, it would have brought many in that banquet room to tears, realizing how much each person means to the other. That date will have to wait for another time, perhaps on Aug. 15, when the Hohenadel's are expecting to travel up to Connecticut, where both Brandon and David will throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the New Britain Rock Cats game, the Class AA affiliate of the Colorado Rockies. It's only fitting, since sports have always been such a huge part of Brandon's life, especially when it's come to getting him through his treatment periods.
But, what Saturday did re-emphasize is the strong support that this community has for Brandon.
"It's actually pretty amazing that a whole community can gather around one thing and that such a high-volume of people are there to support Brandon," David said. "On top of that, everything that Lisa has done to get so much support for Brandon is amazing."
Time and time again, York County as given its support to Brandon and his family.
Now, he'll be glad to know, that his support group extends all the way into a small town in Connecticut.
"I'd do it again, if I have to," David said about being Brandon's donor. "... I thought, you know, I'm enjoying still being young. I had turned 21 not too long from (when I found out about Brandon) and I wanted him to experience what all I'm going through. It would be selfish of me to sit there and try to deny that from someone."
You can register to be a bone marrow donor at bethematch.org.
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow on Twitter @P_Strohecker.