In the spirit of Thanksgiving and #GivingTuesday, Joanna Lohman went to lift the hopes of a local athlete and her family with a special visit.
Kelly Brodnik was like many other 13 year old athletes. She excelled in soccer, basketball, and swimming, and enjoyed hanging out with her parents and three sisters. Then in April, she was diagnosed with a bone cancer called osteosarcoma. The young soccer player was forced to put her athletic dreams on hold as she went through seven months of chemotherapy, a full knee replacement, and had pieces of her femur removed.
During her chemo, Kelly had shown her aunt photos of her “beast” role model, Joanna Lohman. Kelly mentioned that Joanna helped her persevere through the tough times. Her aunt had never heard of Lohman but decided to reach out in hopes of the Washington Spirit midfielder writing a kind message.
Lohman did more than that! When she received the email and heard Kelly’s story, she immediately asked if she could pay a personal visit to Kelly and her extended family over Thanksgiving weekend.
“Kelly was sitting by the fire and when she saw me her face lit up. That moment was so special,” said Lohman. “She gave me a tour of the house and I learned more about her journey. I saw the Spirit jersey hanging on her wall and it made me so proud to know that our team is such a big part of her life.”
The rest of the day involved a competitive family game of “Heads Up,” basketball (Lohman was a ball shagger for Kelly), and a lengthy discussion about overcoming adversity and adapting to the challenges life throws at each of us.
“She is limited physically,” noted Lohman. “She is still trying to get used to her new knee and recover from the intense treatment she endured. But you can see and feel the energy she has – her attitude was incredible. There was rarely a moment we were not smiling or laughing.”
The support that Kelly’s community has shown her has been amazing – t-shirts and bracelets with the “Kelly Strong” emblem were designed and worn. Signs were created and Kelly’s room is full of heart-felt messages from friends. Lohman is now a proud owner of the “Kelly Strong” swag and the shirt and bracelet will be a large part of her wardrobe as she continues to support Kelly and her family post-chemo.
“It is amazing to me that I can make this type of impact on someone – a stranger who I had never met, who was struggling with cancer, looked to me for strength,” Joanna reflected. “It completely blew my mind and when her aunt reached out to me, I knew I had to meet her. She is stronger than I will ever be. When I struggle – which we all do – I know I will think of her as inspiration.”
In honor of #GivingTuesday, anyone in the Spirit Family who wants to support the Brodniks, the family is actually asking all our fans to simply “pay it forward” to make it possible for other young patients to have access to the cancer drugs. They know that many families cannot afford the types of things that have been essential to Kelly’s treatment, so encourage everyone to donate to the Pediatric Specialists of Virginia. When doing so, check “Yes” when asked if the donation should be designated. The designation should be “Greatest Need”.