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Church, community rally around Brinn Andrew for benefit

A poor man’s supper benefit scheduled for Feb. 2 at Central United Methodist Church in Albemarle will help Brinn Andrew, who was recently diagnosed with cancer.

Parents Jason and Kellie Andrew heard the diagnosis in December, when they learned their now 20-month-old daughter was sick. Brinn was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a form of pediatric cancer diagnosed in less then 20,000 children in the United States per year often found in the adrenal glands of children 5 and younger.

According to her mother, Brinn was first seen by her pediatrician. She had a runny nose and fever but also a hard spot in her stomach which stuck out.

A biopsy at Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte confirmed neuroblastoma, and she started chemotheraphy the day after Christmas. According to Kellie, the 18-month treatment plan has three stages: chemotherapy, a bone marrow transplant and radiation therapy as well as immunotherapy.

The neuroblastoma Brinn has on her left adrenal gland, according to Kellie, is a Stage III high-risk form, meaning a high risk exists of the cancer returning after treatment.  However, she noted after two rounds of chemo, Brinn’s blood pressure has improved and her appetite has gotten stronger.

Throughout all of it, Kellie said, Brinn has not lost her spunk which she said “was the biggest shock you could imagine.”

“Brinn still wants to play, to laugh. The fact is she stays so happy, even when hooked up to everything. She will keep coloring even after throwing up. It’s easier to have a kid who is so happy; it makes me put on my big girl boots,” Kellie said.

Brinn’s older brother, 3-1/2-year-old Nash, “has been amazing” with his younger sister. Being told of her sickness right away, Kellie said, helped him not to be scared.

“They love each other,” Kellie added.

She also credited the nurses and staff at Levine, saying: “we have been blown away; I’ve said it before, even though we have no idea what’s around each corner, they do and are so prepared.”

Kellie added the staff treats Brinn like she is their own.

“We know it’s not home, but there is a level of comfort,” she said. “We feel very comfortable in that, too; doesn’t leave grey area if (Brinn is) at the right place or not.”

Reaction from her community and church have been overwhelming, she said, adding the family has “experienced an outpouring of love and prayers.

“We are seeing living in a small town as being one of the most comforting things for us as a family,” she said.

Kellie said her family “is figuring out the new normal” for their lives with Brinn at Levine. She said her family has been “an amazing support system” throughout all of what’s gone on.

That support system also includes her church family, Kellie said, who reacted “so quickly and positively” upon learning the news of Brinn’s diagnosis.

“We have been so grateful; we are lucky to be part of a good church family.”

Hearing the Call

Included in that church community is Reghan Suhr, a 9-year-old fourth-grade student at Badin who said she felt led to help Brinn and her family by organizing a benefit at the church.

“When Brinn was baptized, we all promised to help take care of her. God doesn’t make this world for someone to take care of their own family; He made it so we can all take care of each other. In this world, we are all brothers and sisters,” Reghan said. “God doesn’t like for you to break promises.”

Her goal, she said, was to raise at least $3,000 through the benefit for the family. She hopes the benefit shows “I am there for them in the hard times and the good times.”

“As parents, you always hope you are teaching them in the Christian faith and fashion; at the same point, you hope they are listening to those Sunday school teachers and sermons,” Amanda Suhr, her mother, said. “This proves she is listening and hearing the things she needs to hear.”

She said her daughter wanting to do the benefit for Brinn “proves we have a good minister and he is not only getting through to the adults but to the little people.”

The benefit has also generated a number of contributions for silent auctions, including beach vacations, custom furniture, Yeti items, photo sessions, Vulcan gravel and materials from Stokes Construction for the building of a custom-made playhouse for a raffle.

“When I called my husband (Brett) in tears to tell him what (Reghan) told me, he said, ‘Amanda, we are her parents; it’s out job.’ When you see kids wanting to help other kids, it’s rewarding. There is still goodness in this world.”

Earl Bradshaw, senior pastor at Central UMC, said: “as a pastor, it is so exciting to see Reghan, a 9-year-old, live out the commandments to love God and love people in a tangible way by being the catalyst for this fundraiser.”

“With every horrible story (about people) you hear, we are seeing how amazing people are,” Kellie Andrew added.

The Andrew family has been sharing their story on Facebook and Instagram (@bravebrinn) and will continue to do so in the future, Kellie said.

“We want to be very clear about what she’s going through,” she said. “We do it because people want to know.”

About Charles Curcio

Charles Curcio was the sports editor of the Stanly News & Press from 1999-2001 and has currently served in the same capacity since 2008. He was awarded the NCHSAA Tim Stevens Media Representative of the Year and named CNHI Sports Editor of the Year in 2014. He has also been honored twice by the North Carolina Press Association.

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