WINDERMERE — Every table was taken inside and out, and the line snaked out the door and down the sidewalk at a cluster of businesses in The Grove Aug. 20 as members of the community turned out to support a Windermere Elementary fourth-grader with cancer.
The fundraiser was held last week at three locations: Burger Fi, Jeremiah’s Italian Ice and Mimi’s Boutique. It was originally set for the evening, but organizers received such an overwhelming response from the community that they expanded it to an all-day event. It brought in more than $5,000.
Donations to a youcaring fundraising page also have been pouring in to help Avery and Kim Goldberg pay for medical bills that have steadily been mounting since their daughter, Julianna, 9, was diagnosed with cancer earlier this summer.
But perhaps one of the most heartwarming offerings was the $155 accompanied by this message: “Jules, my name is Bella … and I’m 9 years old. Me and my friends Cate and Lia wanted to make your Spirit Night, but we can’t. So instead we went around our neighborhood (Waterford Pointe) and raised money for your care and to help you get better. We have great neighbors. We hope you get better soon and we are praying for you. … Bye for now. Bella, Cate, and Lia.”
Julianna Goldberg, or Jules, as she is also known, woke up one April morning with a large and painful lump on the side of her neck, Kim Goldberg said. Doctors dismissed it as an infection and prescribed antibiotics, but when the lump remained, the Goldbergs took Jules to a specialist, who ordered an ultrasound and later a fine-needle biopsy.
The diagnosis came in July: Stage 3 Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the part of the immune system called the lymphatic system. She has tumors in her neck, next to her lung and under her liver.
The fourth-grader is in the midst of her second of four rounds of chemotherapy. She must stay in the hospital for three days of treatment every 21 days. She has lost her hair — but certainly not her radiant smile.
At last week’s fundraiser, Jules laughed with her friends, who admired the blond wig peeking from beneath a white knit cap, and the popular girl gave everyone a wide smile.
She admitted it was “pretty cool” to see so many people show up just for her.
Her third-grade teacher attended. A local resident who beat Hodgkin’s lymphoma 20 years ago stopped by to lend encouragement. The wife of Jules’ doctor went, too. Still others were there to pick up the “Julestrong” T-shirt they ordered.
The threat of germs kept Jules from embracing guests, but taking selfies wasn’t out of the question.
Her mother stood nearby, admiring her beautiful daughter as she enjoyed life, love and friendship.
“She’s doing really (well),” Kim Goldberg said. “Her spirits are really high, and her body is handling the chemo really well. During her chemotherapy treatments she gets sick, but then she rallies and then snaps out of it and is great afterward. She acts completely normal.”
Another scan was done last week, and doctors said it looks promising that Jules could be an early responder to the treatment. If so, she could be done after two more rounds of chemo.
Until she’s in remission, Jules can’t attend school, her mother said. She will keep up with her schoolwork through Orange County Public Schools’ hospital homebound program. She also participates as a flyer on the Top Gun All-Stars cheer team — but activities such as this will have to wait until she is better, as well.
How are Kim and Avery Goldberg handling their daughter’s diagnosis?
“We are doing really well,” she said. “I feel like at first it was a huge shock, and it really just turned our lives upside down. We were super upset about the news, and the hardest part was that week of waiting where we had the port placed in her chest and we had a bunch of biopsies done and the PET scan and the CT scan … and not knowing.
“Now we’re handling it the best we can and trying to take care of everyone,” Kim Goldberg said. “We’re very optimistic that everything’s going to be fine. Knowing everything’s going to be OK is just keeping us going.”
Their friends and neighbors have pitched in, taking them so many homemade meals that Kim Goldberg said she hasn’t had to cook for the family of seven since her daughter’s diagnosis. Jules is the second of five children: Ethan, 12; Tyler, 7; Rory, 4; and Arden, 15 months.
In addition to preparing food, friends set up a booth at the Windermere Farmers Market and made $1,200 selling “Jules-pop” ice pops, rosette pens and decorative boxes made by Kim Goldberg and signed by Jules. The Windermere Police Department donated $500. Some moms planned a parents-vs.-kids kickball benefit and silent auction that took place Saturday.
Kim Goldberg’s sister set up the youcaring page, Julestrong.com, and she said there has been a great response. The money will be used to pay medical bills, and anything left over will be donated to various organizations associated with pediatric cancer research, such as St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital and the Children’s Brain Tumor Project.
“All I can say is that we feel so so loved by our special town of Windermere and will never be able to properly thank this community for their generosity and support,” Kim Goldberg said.
As for Jules — who is quite the social butterfly, her mother said — she’s just eager to get back to school, her friends and her cheer squad. But until then, she’s keeping a smile on her face and handling her situation with grace.
WANT TO HELP?
To learn more about Jules and other upcoming events, get an update on her condition or make a donation online, visit julestrong.com.