Jewell Cardwell

The family of James Henry Bennett asked last week for prayers for the 14-year-old Richfield boy who was being treated at Akron Children’s Hospital for a raft of serious illnesses following a 2011 diagnosis of acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

Now friends are asking for prayers of strength for the family.

James died early Monday morning, battling his most recent diagnosis of encephalitis, a swelling of the brain.

That came after a bone marrow transplant, adenovirus (a complicated infection in the respiratory system) and the removal of his entire colon.

Through it all, James’ greatest fear was not dying, but being forgotten, he had earlier shared.

Given what an inspiration he was to all who knew him and his story, the latter is not likely to happen.

Still, in keeping his wish not to be forgotten, members of the Revere schools and Richfield community are working to establish a memorial scholarship in his name to pay for the annual eighth-grade spring trip to the nation’s capital for students who have financial need and best exemplify James’ attributes of integrity and loyalty and other traits. Unfortunately, James was unable to join his classmates on the recent spring trip because of declining health and intensive medical treatments.

More details to come.

James, who always maintained a positive “pushing forward” attitude, was grateful to everyone who ever did anything for him — doctors, nurses, other medical personnel, family, of course, and friends.

He was also grateful to Barbara McKelvey and her partner Sammy, a rescue Bichon, who regularly volunteered with the Delta Society Partner Program and Akron Children’s Hospital’s “Doggie Brigade” since 2009.

Sammy is assigned to the hospital’s oncology unit where James was a regular.

James wrote earlier about his unique bond with Sammy:

“I was diagnosed last April (2011) with leukemia.

“The only part I liked about being in the hospital was the visits from the Doggie Brigade. Sammy was and is my favorite Doggie. At the end of June, the doctors told me that I wasn’t responding the right way to the protocol treatment. I would have to get a bone marrow transplant. The hospital stay would be long. I was worried about missing my (own) dog, Willow.

“I was admitted at the end of September. The rules for bone marrow transplant patients are the number of visitors are limited and no doggie visits. Over a month without any contact from a dog made me sad. The BMT (bone marrow transplant) was a struggle. I was depressed and just wanted to go home. I missed my dog.

“My wonderful BMT doctor and nurse thought I would perk up a little bit if they allowed a dog to visit. That dog was Sammy. I was so excited that he was allowed to visit with me, I cried after he left. He lifted my bad spirits. The nurses on the floor were surprised that the doctor allowed the visit but it did make me feel better and gave me hope that I will be going home. Sammy is a great dog and helped me feel better with my recovery.”

In keeping with his greatest wish for people to donate blood, James’ loving parents — Sarah Mader Bennett of Richfield and James Bennett Sr. of Parma — wrote this final message to the wider community:

“Mommy and Daddy thank everyone for the well wishes, prayers, and good karma.

“Leukemia did not beat him. No, my son, it did not.

“Please ask them to donate blood, platelets, and bone marrow.

“When you grieve the loss of your child, it’s not the natural order of things. For a child to die before his parents, the nightmare never ends, it’s not dwindling. We lost a big part of ourselves today, and we lost our best friend. ... Rest in peace, sweet baby James. October 28th, 1997 — July 30th, 2012. Thank you, everyone, for your kindness and love.”

Calling hours are scheduled for 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. Friday at Catavolos Funeral Home, 3653 W. Market St., Fairlawn; with a celebration-of-life service following at 8 p.m.

Jewell Cardwell can be reached at 330-996-3567 or jcardwell@thebeaconjournal.com