Anyone who doubts the power of a close family and a loving community needs to hear the story of Weston Herndon.
This is that story.
Weston is the oldest of Megan and Matt Herndon’s four boys. He’s a popular outfield player in the Peachtree League, a teller of silly “Mom” jokes, a devoted big brother, and the beloved cousin, grandson and nephew of a large extended family. “He’s such a fun little dude,” said his aunt, Ashley Herndon Miller.
Besides Weston, 9, there’s Walker, 7; Whitman, 4; and Warren, a six-month-old baby. Warren had just joined the family when his oldest brother began having different odd symptoms that couldn’t be explained. Early in the new year, Megan and Matt brought Weston to the UVA Health Sciences Center, where he was admitted and given a series of tests.
Weston had a brain tumor, a large one, and the family mobilized to work out the complicated logistics of managing his life-threatening illness, while also protecting and caring for their other children. Weston’s had two brain surgeries and is undergoing treatment at Children’s National Hospital. “Chemo, radiation, whatever they can throw at it,” said Miller, and there may also be other therapies in Weston’s future. Megan takes Weston and the baby with her to D.C. every week, while Matt manages life for Walker and Whitman at home, besides running his business, Herndon Home Contracting LLC.
The extended family worked out ways they could all help, with great ideas for fund-raising and emotional support. Miller started a Facebook Page, “Weston’s Warriors,” a way to let everyone know about Weston’s progress as well as the many events planned for his benefit; other family members put donation jars in businesses and planned events near their homes in Charlottesville, Scottsville, and Ruckersville.
They could not have expected the wave of community support that followed. Actually, it was more like a tsunami. Benjamin Floyd, a Peachtree League father, started a GoFundMe page. Food arrived in such quantities at the Herndon’s White Hall home that they had to call a moratorium on the lasagnas that spilled out of their refrigerator and freezer. The Piedmont Store, near the Herndon home, became the center for food drop-off, so the family could maintain a somewhat normal schedule.
Elaine Clark found an ingenious program that converts old shoes into cash, and you can’t go far in Crozet without encountering a bin for your worn sneakers. There have been spaghetti dinners, pancake breakfasts, pizza fundraisers, cookie promotions and a pound hunt for Weston’s benefit. Miller also thanked Allen and Heather Powell, Troy and Tracey Herndon, but there’s more, she said, “more people than we can adequately thank.” The family and the Crozet Gazette apologize in advance if someone participating in the overwhelming response hasn’t been mentioned.
There’s a number you’ll see everywhere this spring and summer, as members of Weston’s Peachtree team and all the league members display Weston’s #14 on their shirts, bracelets and an assortment of fundraising merchandise. Members of the public can find a bracelet and make a donation at the Piedmont Store. In late March, the Minutemen Motorcycle Club held a cook-off that, with help from the VFW, raised the startling sum of $10,487. There have been dances, raffles, cookie sales, special merchandise and shopping sites committed to earmarking part of the proceeds for Weston’s care. Miller said there are so many active, helping projects ongoing that she posts information about every event she’s aware of on the “Weston Warriors” Facebook Page.
At the Modern Barber Shop, Lisa McCauley cut hair on a March Saturday morning with all the haircut money going to the family. McCauley said she would never forget the kindness of Weston’s grandfather, R.D. Dunning, who helped her when her shop’s porch was seriously damaged by a turning truck. “Of course, I wanted to do something for them all.” As soon as she opened that morning, the chairs were full, with plenty of people waiting.
As for Weston, he’s stoic and rarely complains, but of course is uncomfortable a good bit of the time from his treatments. The family is grateful for the overwhelming response, not only the financial support but the good will, concern, love and prayers, Miller said. “We can feel it.
Communication via the “Weston’s Warriors” Facebook page allows the family to maintain their focus on the health and wellbeing of Weston and his brothers. The page lists current events and available merchandise and is updated often. The family’s “GoFundMe” link as well as other ideas for supporting the family under the “Featured” section on the page.