For the Desmelik family of Brevard, the Super Bowl will be a needed distraction in a winter otherwise marred with difficult medical events for their two young sons.
Six-year-old Holmes Desmelik was diagnosed with a brain tumor last year. He’s a huge Carolina Panthers fan, his mother, Clare, says. He was Cam Newton for Halloween, went to two home games with his parents this season and dons a Ron Rivera-signed helmet during games.
Family friends created a GoFundMe page on Tuesday to send the young fan to the Super Bowl in Santa Clara, Calif.; it had raised over $10,000 by midday Wednesday.
But things changed when the Desmeliks notified their friends Wednesday that Holmes’ 3-year-old brother, Vincent, will undergo surgery Feb. 5 to rule out lymphoma after doctors discovered he had an unusually enlarged lymph node last week.
“There’s never good timing for any of this. There was such good momentum going and it could have been a really fun thing,” Clare says.
Vincent will have surgery at Mission Hospital in Asheville, the same place his brother has been getting chemotherapy treatments – four weeks on, then two weeks off, Clare says of Holmes’ 84-week chemo schedule.
Holmes had an allergic reaction to the chemicals last week, so when he goes in for treatment Thursday, the process will be slowed down, she says.
Now, the Desmeliks will use Super Bowl Sunday, on Feb. 7, to relax, recover and quietly cheer on the Panthers from home. The GoFundMe donations will go toward the boys’ medical expenses.
“It’s a financial strain on a family,” said Mary Catherine Townsend, Clare’s friend from growing up in Charlotte who started the fundraising page. “It’s just one thing after another (for the Desmeliks.)”
The family is no stranger to the Panthers. This season, when the team learned about Holmes, head coach Ron Rivera sent the family two autographed helmets the boys wear on game days. The team also sent Holmes a football and a letter to “Keep Pounding” that Newton signed.
During football season, the Desmeliks make the game-watching as special as they can for Holmes, complete with banners, beads and jerseys. “It turns into a blue, black, white and silver Panther town,” Clare says.
It will be that way, too, on Super Bowl Sunday, albeit likely quieter as Vincent recovers from surgery and as the family awaits his pathology results. Clare says she hopes the family can make the two-hour trip to Charlotte to welcome the team back after the game.
“I’m hoping we will be there when they come home as Super Bowl champs,” Clare says.