Local musicians are coming together in Haw Creek to stage a fundraising event in support of a 12-year-old Asheville boy recovering from a debilitating brain tumor.
Oso Rey, Akira Satake, David Earl Tomlinson, Pierce Edens, Aaron Woody Wood, David Cohen and many others will perform 3-7 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 24, at Creekside Taphouse to raise money to help with medical expenses for Evergreen Community Charter School student Luca Mele, who was diagnosed with a craniopharyngioma, a type of brain tumor, in April of this year.
The event will feature more than two dozen raffle prizes donated by community members, including an Xbox One, a Pearl drum set, gift certificates to local eateries and other businesses, handcrafted jewelry pieces, a year’s membership to the Asheville Sun Soo Tae Kwon Do School, two vacation getaways and more.
All proceeds from the raffle and a percentage of food sales from the event will go to the family’s medical expenses fund. Donations will also be accepted. A full listing of raffle prizes can be viewed here.
Admission is free and the event is open to the community. Attendees are encouraged to bring their own instruments for a live jam session.
Luca is the son of Tony Mele, an Evergreen middle school teacher who won the Xpress Best of WNC Best Teacher award in both 2011 and 2012.
Below is a letter from Evergreen parent Gloria Shen detailing Luca’s situation, the Creekside Taphouse event and the family’s fundraising efforts:
When a life-changing illness affects a member of our Western North Carolina community, the community responds with well-wishes, support and generosity.
Such actions have recently been evident in the case of Luca Mele, the buoyant and delightful 12-year old Evergreen Community Charter School student who was found with a craniopharyngioma, a type of brain tumor, in April of this year.
The medical specialists at Vanderbilt University Children’s Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee had described the tumor itself as benign but with malignant tendencies. This meant that if the tumor were left on its own, it would grow unabated, posing a danger to any and all adjacent structures in Luca’s brain. Already it presented a significant threat to Luca’s well-being because of where it was positioned in the center of Luca’s brain. To further complicate the situation, the tumor had adhered to Luca’s hypothalamus and had begun to block a ventricle responsible for the normal draining of cranial fluid from the skull. Additionally, had there been any delay in the surgery at all, Luca could have lost his sight due to the tumor’s rapid growth rate and inevitable impingement of the optic nerve.
In order to reach the tumor, Luca’s entire pituitary gland had to be removed. Following an intensive 11-hour surgery, the tumor was successfully excised. However, without his pituitary gland, Luca has developed a form of diabetes and suffered from impaired renal functioning post-operatively. His hypothalamus has been impacted as well; the complete removal of the tumor could not have been possible without scratching this structure of the brain.
Beyond the dramatic changes in Luca’s metabolism and the need for a lifetime of hormone replacement therapy, Luca’s family has had to bear exorbitant medical expenses from the surgery in addition to the follow-up MRI scans and medical care. Luca has just returned from a 3-month post-operative checkup. Luca’s father, Tony Mele, reported on the family’s Facebook page: “Luca’s MRI looks good. There is an area of scarring that requires continued monitoring to be sure the tumor is not reoccurring. They suspect what they’re seeing is scar tissue, but they can’t be sure. Things do look good at three months out, however. His neurosurgeon is optimistic, and we’re grateful for the good news.”
Luca will return to Vanderbilt University Children’s Hospital for a re-check at the end of October.
Luca’s father, Tony Mele, has won the Mountain Xpress ‘Best Teacher of WNC’ award two years in a row (2011 and 2012) and was named among the best in the category for 2013 as well. He teaches 7th and 8th grade social studies at the Evergreen Community Charter School in Asheville.
Those who care deeply for this boy and his family have organized a fundraising event that is to be held at the Creekside Taphouse on Sunday, August 24th from 3 – 7 p.m. Two indefatigable parents of former students of Tony Mele have spearheaded this effort working alongside others who have been touched by Luca and his family through the years. One of the fundraiser’s primary organizers shared her thoughts on Luca and his father:
“Luca is a one-of-a-kind, amazing, resilient, smart and hilarious kid. He is genuinely friendly to everyone he meets. Tony is a dedicated teacher and a fabulous role model for those who are lucky enough to be among his students. He has found his calling in the middle school classroom and brings world history to life as he lectures. He’s informing the next generation so these kids can make real and lasting change in the world, and I really admire that. Both of my daughters have had him as a teacher and I can say for sure that they are both better for it. He’s always been there for them. He’s truly dedicated to helping kids succeed.”
Ryan Rosenfelt, a former student of Tony Mele, stated:
“Tony is the kind of person who understands. He understands who he is and who everybody else is and doesn’t expect anything to be perfect. He knows everybody makes mistakes and that everybody has good days and bad days. He gets the fact that we are all human, and he goes out of his way to make sure we understand that being human is a good thing. He teaches us to take responsibility for our actions, to take time to reflect and [he] shows us that you have to work for what you want. And he also knows that every once in a while you just need to laugh.”
Countless hours have been dedicated by supporters of this family to organize, coordinate and gather raffle prizes for the upcoming fundraiser. There are over two dozen raffle prizes contributed by members of the Western NC community including an Xbox One, a Pearl drum set, gift certificates to local eateries and services, original handcrafted jewelry pieces, a year’s membership to the Asheville Sun Soo Tae Kwon Do School, two vacation getaways and more. Five local businesses have enthusiastically pitched in to help with the sale of raffle tickets. A listing of raffle prizes and full item descriptions can be seen on the family’s ‘Team Luca Mele’ Facebook page and the following locations where raffle tickets will be sold through Friday, August 22nd. After that time, tickets will be available at the actual event.
Asheville Sun Soo Tae Kwon Do School (1009 Patton Avenue)
Biscuit Head (733 Haywood Road; 379 Biltmore Avenue)
Lookout Brewery (103 S. Ridgeway Ave. in Black Mountain)
Overstock Outlet Stores (Candler location: 1442 Smokey Park Highway)
East Asheville Recreation Club (40 Bell Road in Asheville)
One-hundred percent of the raffle proceeds will go towards the family’s expense fund and as a bonus, the Creekside Taphouse will donate a percentage of its food sales from the event towards the fund. There will be live music with appearances by Oso Rey, Akira Satake and several more local artists.
The event is open to everyone and attendees are encouraged to bring their own instruments for a live jam session. Contributions to go towards the family’s expense fund will also be gratefully accepted at the event.
It is often said that the only constant in this world is change. That may be true, but when a life-changing illness affects a member of our community, we are reminded of the precious ‘constants’ we have yet in our lives. In the case of the Mele family, the love pouring from the community has been that ‘constant.’ Based on what has already come through for the upcoming fundraiser, many are confident that this loving support will endure to see Luca and his family through in the years ahead.
-G. Emma Shen