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Harvest Green neighbors raise thousands for young cancer patient

October 6, 2018

Thanks to the acts of their neighbors, a Fort Bend family is realizing the true power of community as they join with neighbors to help their toddler fight cancer.

Christine and Dave Badillo said that almost all of the Harvest Green development in Richmond has banded together to raise funds and show their support at a time when it was needed most.

“This wasn’t just about raising funds, this was about bringing a community together and showing our younger generations what that word actually means,” Christine Badillo said.

Summer break had just begun for the Fort Bend ISD high school teacher when her 2-year-old son Zach started showing signs that something was wrong.

“No one knew what these weird symptoms were, but they were scary,” Christine said. “We went to the pediatricians for blood work.”

Doctors sent the family to the emergency room at Texas Children’s Hospital for more testing and X-rays.

“We got the diagnosis that day,” Christine said.

The Badillos learned that Zach has acute T-Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia. He would spend the next three days in the intensive care unit, and most of the following month in the hospital undergoing chemotherapy.

“It’s just been a whirlwind,” Christine said. “And it’s been really hard on our family,”

She had to take an unpaid leave of absence from work — and spend time away from Zach’s twin brother Liam.

While the Badillos have insurance, they still worry about their finances. As the school year approached, Christine was not certain whether she will be able to return to her post. Related expenses to the hospital stays started piling up.

The neighborhood was ready to rally around the family.

The Badillos live on a special street in Harvest Green. All of the families have become close friends in the past couple of years since the development opened.

Brooklyn Donetti clearly remembers the first time she met Christine Badillo.

“She was really pregnant with her twins, and I was gigantic with my soon-to-be born son,” Brooklyn said. “We just really hit it off.”

The women’s husbands — Pierre Donetti and Dave Badillo — also became best friends.

“They’re such a sweet family,” Brooklyn said. “They’re really nice and outgoing.”

The Donettis were shocked when they heard about Zach’s diagnosis.

“He’s just so little,” Brooklyn said. “We wanted to do something to help, but we didn’t know what to do.”

They brainstormed ideas and decided to use their skills behind the barbecue grill and host a fundraiser serving up plates for Zach’s cause.

Brooklyn approached area businesses to join in the effort and also spread the word throughout Harvest Green about the upcoming event.

“I was shocked at how receptive everyone was,” Brooklyn said. “A lot of people wanted to come out and show their support.”

She also talked to Sylvia Morgese, lifestyle director at Harvest Green, who agreed to provide a venue for the fundraiser, the Farmhouse event hall located right in the neighborhood.

Brooklyn said the large space allowed them to make an even bigger impact.

The fundraiser, which was held last month, featured gift card raffles, a silent auction, bake sale, bouncy houses, yard games, DJ and face-painting, in addition to plates of barbecue.

In total, about 600 plates of barbecue were sold. Pierre Donetti and his friends handled the grilling duties.

“They had barbecue pits lined up in my driveway,” Brooklyn said. “They were cooking all night long.”

People sold T-shirts, mugs and koozies to raise more for the Badillos. The family’s Realtor, Shane Light, also got on board, helping with the event, and an area builder, Highland Homes, donated snow cones.

Harvest Green also gave the Badillos $1,500, the maximum gift amount available from its Children’s Catastrophic Fund, administered through the development’s community foundation committee.

For the fund, the development sets aside money for families with a child who has been diagnosed with a catastrophic health condition. The grants may be applied for annually until a child is 18, and families do not need to demonstrate financial need to be considered.

In total, the Badillos received enough with the Harvest Green grant and funds raised from the event to cover their needs.

“We had no idea that putting something on like that was even possible,” Christine said. “It’s something we will never forget.”

Zach’s treatment is ongoing.

“We think it’s going well,” Christine said. “We have a lot of up days, when we get good news.”

But there are still concerns that remain. Zach is undergoing an eight-month treatment phase. If it goes well, there will be three years of maintenance, Christine explained.

“It’s a long process,” she said. “With something like this, we don’t really know. But we’re hoping for a best-case scenario.”

Having the gift of funding has made a world of difference, Christine added.

“That’s one stress that’s just been lifted from us,” she said.

She started a public Facebook page to follow Zach’s progress, named “Zach’s Pack” after the toddler’s love of wolves — and in honor of the power of a group to persevere.

Even though the Badillos said their needs are covered for now, they want to continue to share Zach’s story to raise awareness, especially since September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

“We were living this normal life and one day it all changed,” she said. “It can happen to anyone at any time.”

Looking back, Christine could not be happier that her family moved to Harvest Green. She recalls when Fort Bend ISD was discussing zoning, how she looked at the planning map for the area and imagined what it would look like in the next 10 years.

She discovered the vision for Harvest Green, an “agri-hood concept.” The 1,300-acre master-planned developed is the first in Houston centered around a community farm.

Christine told her husband Dave that she wanted to move there, and the couple closed on their dream home in March 2016.

“Harvest Green pulled me in when it was just an idea,” she said. “Now we hope to never leave.”

Now, Christine feels like moving into the development was divine.

“We felt called to Harvest Green and now we feel like we know why — so we’d have this community,” she said. “We never thought twice about our neighborhood, house or street. And now I know why. It was Him bringing us to a group of people who would love us, protect us and support us when we were going through the fire two years later.”

She said that the Donettis and all the neighbors in Breeze Bluff recognized their need and acted out of pure love.

“How perfect was it that we got into this neighborhood, on this street, when we did?” she asks. “We could have been anywhere else and not have this support. It makes you feel like you’re actually at home.”

For more information about Harvest Green, visit www.harvestgreentexas.com. Follow the Badillos on the Facebook page “Zach’s Pack: No One Fights Alone.”

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