Life has been full of hardships for Donavon Burnes, and now it appears his life may be coming to a close.
The 14-year-old Coarsegold boy has a rare form of melanoma that the doctors at Valley Children’s Hospital say is most likely fatal. He is on morphine for pain.
He can’t communicate effectively because he has severe autism.
His heart can barely keep him alive.
About his heart: He was born with only a partial heart. It was too small to keep him going. The heart had to be rebuilt surgically, using tissues from animals.
“The doctors have done miracles,” said his great-grandfather, J.B. Overstreet of Madera. “And then there’s the prayers.”
J.B. and his wife, Camille, believe in prayer. The two, on most Sundays, occupy a pew on the center aisle about a fourth of the way back from the front on the epistle side of the sanctuary at Madera United Methodist Church. Many times the World War II veteran and former Madera businessman and rancher has stood during prayers of the people and asked his fellow congregants to pray for Donavon.
“We’ve got the Catholics praying for us, too,” he said. Camille is a former Catholic.
One particular time of prayer was about four years ago, when Donavon’s heart was being worked on, to enlarge it a second time. A dangerous operation, it was. But that procedure was a success.
Then, two years ago, came the melanoma, which began as a lump under the boy’s skin and spread throughout his body.
Typically, that disease would be treated with aggressive use of chemotherapy, “but the treatment, the chemo, even just a little chemo, nearly stopped his heart,” J.B, said.
Now J.B. and his family are turning to the church again, this time to help raise some money for Donavon’s family.
“His family has accumulated a lot of expenses,” J.B. said. “And I don’t mean the medical bills. I mean all the other things that go with trying to keep a very sick person alive.”
He said the family has a Gofundme account set up, and some other fund-raising efforts, but that is not enough.
“So, we decided to do what Methodists are pretty good at: Baking cakes,” J.B said.
Any kind and any quantity of cakes are welcome, he said. The plan is to collect them and sell them in the Fireside Room at Madera United Methodist Church, 500 Sunset Drive, starting at 9 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 24.
That event will occur a little less than a month before a two-day celebration the church has planned to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the finish of construction and the consecration of its present building, which since 1956 has been one of the city’s principal religious landmarks. The celebration is scheduled for Oct. 22-23.
“As you might imagine, it will include a big potluck,” said celebration chair Nancy Simpson. “Methodists are very good at potlucks.”
The celebration also will include the publication of a book of church recipes, and also a bake sale.
“And it might be that we will sell a lot of cakes,” she said.