GREENFIELD — Twelve-year-old Tandess O’Neal has known too many people battling cancer. Cousins, aunts, uncles and friends — some of whom she’s known for years, others she’s only met on occasion.
Word of each new diagnosis affected Tandess, she said, but none more so than the story of Peyton Belling, a 3-year-old Fishers boy who died after a short battle with leukemia earlier this year. Tandess’ mother, Heather O’Neal, is a longtime friend of Molly Belling, Peyton’s mother.
Even though she never had a chance to meet Peyton, Tandess knew she wanted to help, to do something to bring comfort to Peyton’s family and raise money for a cause important to them.
The sixth-grader at Greenfield Intermediate School got to work planning a golf outing to benefit Peyton’s Promise Inc., an organization created by Peyton’s family in his memory. The event will take place Saturday at Arrowhead Golf Course in Greenfield.
Twenty-six teams of golfers have signed up to participate, and Tandess is hopeful the event will raise more than $5,000. Registration is full, but sponsorships for the event are still being sought.
“It was a way to give back, to help them and to help other people affected by cancer,” Tandess said.
All proceeds from the 2015 Peyton’s Promise golf outing will be used to help re-establish a memory box program at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, where Peyton received treatment, said Eric Belling, Peyton’s father.
For years, Riley families who lost children were given molds of the child’s hands as a keepsake and memory boxes to store them safely, Belling said. But donations for the memory boxes ran out, forcing the Bellings to carry their memento home in a rolled-up blanket.
Now, the families are hopeful funds from the golf outing will rekindle the memory box fund at the hospital, Tandess said. She’s optimistic this golf outing will be one of many and that it will help bring awareness to effects cancer can have on families.
“I think (young) people know the facts about cancer. They know that it’s serious, but they don’t know how it can break a family apart,” Tandess said.
Heather O’Neal said her daughter talked often about hosting fundraiser events to help cancer patients the family knew. Their friendship with the Belling family let to a partnership in hosting an event and a tangible goal to work toward.
“Tandess has one of the biggest hearts you can imagine,” Heather O’Neal said. “She wanted to do something meaningful and know exactly where they money would go.”
The mission of Peyton’s Promise is to support families facing challenging situations, Eric Belling said. As the organization grows, the family will continue to identify different charities to support.
“As long as we find meaningful causes … I don’t see why we can’t do more,” he said.
Donations to Peyton’s Promise can be sent to 216 Lake View Drive, Greenfield. For more information on becoming a sponsor for the golf outing, call 317-462-6072.