University of Delaware police need help making boy with cancer smile

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The call went out on Facebook early Friday. 

The University of Delaware Police Department needed help, it said, not with catching a criminal or finding a suspect, but with making a little boy smile. 

Danny Feltwell was “adopted” by the UD football team and given his own locker in 2012 while in the midst of a 17-month stay at Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children. He was being treated for T-cell lymphoblastic lymphoma, a rare and very aggressive non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

While at home football games, he often hangs out with police officers assigned to the field, Detective Bill Wentz said. Even after that first football season ended and Danny went into remission, Wentz kept in touch with the family and would check in with his brave little friend. 

“I think he’s probably one of the strongest kids I ever met in my life,” Wentz said. 

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Unfortunately, Danny, now 9, is going to need every bit of his strength this winter for another round of cancer treatment, Wentz said. He has relapsed and was recently readmitted to the hospital with a large tumor next to his heart. 

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Hence the Facebook post. Wentz has been busy trying to get Danny’s favorite football player, Carson Wentz (no relation), to visit Danny at the hospital, but knows it is a longshot. 

So he’s also asking members of the community to send cards and pictures to Danny to help bring a smile to his face. 

They can address them to Detective Wentz at 413 Academy St., Newark, DE 19716. 

“P.S. Danny loves UD Football and the Philidelphia Eagles,” the Facebook post says. “#DoItForDanny.” 

Dan Feltwell Jr., Danny’s dad, said his son is devastated right now and needs the encouragement. 

“Danny was four months away from being five years post-treatment and being considered cured,” Feltwell said. “Even his doctors, his doctors cried.” 

On Friday, Danny had a spinal tap, Feltwell said. He was due to start chemotherapy Saturday. It remains to be seen if this is a return of the same cancer Danny experienced previously, or something completely new. 

When Danny started having a hard time breathing last week and his face swelled up, Feltwell took him straight to the children’s hospital, he said. He just had a feeling something was seriously wrong. 

“I listened to him breathe, and I watched his face swell up, and it was a mirror image from seven years ago,” he said. 

Doctors discovered the large tumor, which was compressing Danny’s superior vena cava and bronchial tubes. He underwent a 4.5-hour surgery almost immediately. 

“Anything that would lift my son’s spirits would absolutely be appreciated,” Feltwell said. “He loves getting cards, reading letters. It makes him feel better. It lets him know people care. There is no greater gift.” 

Captain Jason Pires, UD’s police operations commander, said Wentz is also arranging visits with the UD football team and that the entire department was praying the young boy would pull through and battle cancer off once again. Danny was first paired with UD by the Andrew McDonough B+ Foundation, which provides financial assistance to families of children with cancer and funds cancer research. 

The university community raises money for the foundation every year with a 12-hour philanthropic dance marathon called UDance. 

This week, Joe McDonough, the foundation’s founder, posted a short update about Danny on his website. His son, Andrew, died of leukemia in 2007 at age 14. 

“Last Wednesday night, 9-year-old B+ Hero Danny Feltwell joined us for the Diamond State Classic basketball tournament,” McDonough wrote in a blog post. “He was the liveliest of the eight B+ Heroes introduced on the court. By the next morning, though, a scan revealed a large tumor and we learned that Danny’s cancer had relapsed after 2-3 years ‘off treatment.’ (I would argue a childhood cancer survivor is never really ‘off treatment’, whether it be physically or psycho-socially.)”

“Now this poor boy, who was diagnosed at about 2, has to face a tremendously grueling regimen. Thankfully, Danny has the best wingman possible in his Dad, Danny Feltwell Jr. Please keep Dan, Danny and Danny’s caregivers in your prayers!”

Later, when reached by phone, McDonough said Danny is “a very, very ill child that has a tough, tough road ahead of him.” He added that it is rare for T-cell lymphoblastic lymphoma to come back after so much time and that the treatments used beat it back in 2012 may not work this time around. 

“He’s going to be getting a lot of really nasty stuff,” McDonough said. 

Wentz, a father of three, said Danny has become a huge part of his life and that he wants to help cheer him up, even as he starts undergoing painful medical procedures. 

“I just want to put a smile on his face,” Wentz said, adding that other friends of the family are already fundraising on GoFundMe. “I’m just trying to do anything I can to make him happy.” 

“He means a lot to me. He means a lot to a lot of people. He’s a hero in a lot of people’s eyes.” 

Read Wentz’s letter to the Philadelphia Eagles. 

 

Contact Jessica Bies at (302) 324-2881 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @jessicajbies.

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