Great Aunt finds way to help sick nephew
By Amanda Hatfield Anderson
MELBOURNE -- Yvonne Ridder is a force to be reckoned with.
The Melbourne resident will stop at nothing to help her great nephew John Oliver Tetloff, or "Ollie," who is suffering from neuroblastoma.
"Ollie was always healthy -- he was hardly ever sick," Mrs. Ridder said of her 6 year old great-nephew, who lives in Alabama with his parents.
This past spring, Ollie began to complain about his legs hurting.
"When his parents first took him to the doctors, they thought it was just growing pains," Mrs. Ridder said. "He is a little boy, who has grown several inches, and the doctors said it was normal to have pain in the knees at Ollie's age."
As time went on, Ollie's pain intensified and he began to have low-grade fevers.
"That's when the doctors put him in the hospital to run some tests," Mrs. Ridder recalled. "He went into the hospital on April 22, and the doctor came into the room with devastating news on May 6. That news turned our family's lives upside down."
The Mayo Clinic describes neuroblastoma as a type of cancer that develops from immature nerve cells found in several areas of the body, most commonly arising from the adrenal glands. The disease tends to affect children and requires multiple rounds of treatment.
Ollie's treatment began immediately. As of press time, Ollie had undergone several rounds of chemotherapy.
"We were all surprised when he was told what he had," Mrs. Ridder said. "He is scared of shots, and every time someone comes in to get blood, he gets frightened because he is afraid they will take all of his blood."
Despite his fears, Mrs. Ridder said that her great-nephew is very brave and keeps on going, trying to find a positive outlook and remain a happy child throughout the process.
"Ollie loves playing on the computer," Mrs. Ridder said. "He also loves his Legos and his favorite character right now is Iron Man."
Actively finding every way possible to help her great-nephew, Mrs. Ridder approached a group of bikers at the Freedom Café over the summer.
"It was fate that my husband, father and I were having breakfast there that morning," Mrs. Ridder said. "We eat there a lot on Sundays after church."
Mrs. Ridder said that she was talking with their waitress, Desiree, about Ollie when a group of bikers came into the café.
"Desiree suggested that I should go and speak with the bikers," Mrs. Ridder said. "So, I did."
The biker group, known as Southern Justice MRG, listened as Mrs. Ridder talked about Ollie and said they were happy to help in any way they could.
"I call them my guardian angels sent down from heaven," Mrs. Ridder said. "Tom Brandon has been wonderful helping me establish a bike ride for Ollie."
"Ollie's Run is Aug. 18," Mr. Brandon said. "Registration starts at 8 a.m. at the Freedom Café, with kickstands up at 10 a.m."
There are several stops on the ride where each rider will collect a bean, and the route is flexible. The stops include Sports Page in Satellite Beach, Wids on Sarno Road and Melbourne and American Legion Post 81 on U.S.1 and University Blvd., with the ride concluding at Freedom Café.
"The beans will be redeemed for raffle tickets at the door," Mr. Brandon added. "The more people who participate the merrier, as all monies go directly to Ollie and his family. God bless all who have helped get this ride going and to all the participants."
T-shirts will also be available for $15 at the ride.
"Words cannot describe how grateful I am to help Ollie," Mrs. Ridder said. "I've reached out to so many people for help and the response I've received is incredible."
The "Bike Ride for Ollie" is Sunday, Aug. 18 at Freedom Café, 1270 N. Wickham Road, Melbourne. Registration begins at 8 a.m., with the ride beginning at 10 a.m.
Cost is $10, with a $5 fee for a passenger.
For more information, contact Tom Brandon at (321) 806-6147 or Yvonne Ridder at (321) 514-2005.