SAN MARCOS — San Marcos resident Shannon Newton said her heart “shattered” on Dec. 27 when she found out 4-year-old Marissa Donnlley was diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive and incurable form of brain cancer.
But rather than grieve over the tragic news Newton took it to social media to support her good friend, Summer, the mother of Marissa, and their family.
“I feel if we can raise money for Summer and her family — not only will it eliminate stress about finances — but it will allow her to enjoy every moment with her precious baby girl, because every moment is priceless,” said Newton, who has known Summer Donnlley for five years.
Summer Donnlley said it all began just five days before Christmas last year. Marissa was lethargic and couldn’t hold any food down, Summer Donnlley said. After a couple of trips to the emergency room, Marissa was given a computed tomography or CT scan of her head.
“We sit down and (the doctor) tells me that my daughter has a large mass in her brain,” Summer Donnlley said. “I immediately start balling my eyes out and thinking, ‘This is not real. This isn’t happening to my little girl.’”
Marissa was later transported to Rady Children’s Hospital where the family was told she had glioblastoma. The National Center for Biotechnology Information estimates that just 17 per 100,000 children are diagnosed with the deadly disease.
“This has been a very hard situation,” Summer Donnlley said. “This has affected not only us, but our family and friends.”
Newton is just one of those friends who was affected by the heartbreaking news of Marissa’s condition.
“The moment that I heard she had Stage Four Glioblastoma, my heart shattered,” Newton said. “She is the love of my life. I can’t even begin to process how or what I would feel if this were my little girl.”
Newton said she decided to rally the public to support Marissa and her family as Summer Donnlley takes time off work to care for her daughter. Marissa also has two older siblings.
“Summer is a hero,” Newton said. “Marissa hasn’t lost her smile because she has an angel by her side and that is her mommy. I admire her so much, she is the kindest, most loving and selfless mother you could ever know.”
Newton hopes with the public behind her, the Donnlley family will be able to comfortably pay for all medical and cost-of-living expenses. She also has one other wish for Marissa: for as many Frozen-themed gifts as possible.
Newton said the 4-year-old girl, like many other children, is a raving fan of the Disney movie. She also loves to play with her Frozen toys with other kids, all of whom Marissa often describes as her “best friends.”
“Marissa is a sweet, loving, tender little girl who has the biggest heart,” Newton said. “She is kind and gentle and brings a smile to everyone’s face.”
With the goal of supporting her longtime friend and her family in mind, Newton said she launched a GoFundMe page but is also reaching out to local businesses for support.
“I am willing to do whatever it takes to raise money for this family,” Newton said. “I feel if we can raise money for Summer and her family, not only will it eliminate stress about finances, but it will allow her to enjoy every moment with her precious baby girl because every moment is priceless.”
For more information about the GoFundMe campaign or Marissa Donnlley, go to gofundme.com/f/wg9b5-fearless. Those who wish to send “Frozen” gifts to Marissa, can mail them to Shannon Newton at P.O. BOX 2296; San Marcos, CA 92078.
Hoa Quach has 15 years of experience in journalism, garnering multiple awards ranging from investigative reporting to feature writing. She’s been named a “Woman Who Means Business” by the San Diego Business Journal, featured in BuzzFeed during International Women’s Day and recognized by the California Legislature for her work. You can reach her at email@example.com.