HILTON HEAD, Sc. (WSAV) – On this Father’s Day, one Hilton Head dad is not celebrating himself, but instead throwing a birthday party for his son, who died of cancer less than two years ago.
“His last birthday he got to enjoy was his 10th birthday in the hospital during chemo,” said Brandon Arrieta, “When I realized Alex’s birthday is on Father’s Day, for me it’s just reaffirmed that we needed to do this.
Alex would have been twelve Sunday, and instead of a remembering him quietly at home, Arietta started the first annual Lambs for Life birthday bash for him at Adventure Cove in Hilton Head to raise money and awareness for change.
Alex Arrietta was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia at nine years old.
“ He got plucked from society in February 2015 and thrown into a hospital room, couldn’t have visitors, the chemo wasn’t the chemo most people know where you go and you sit in the recliner for a few hours, you go home… his was round the clock, 10-12 hours a day for 7 to 10 days at a time,” said Arrieta.
The first time, he defeated it within six months, but it came back a few months later.
“When we told him, we thought maybe he would hide. That was his natural defense when he was scared, but he didn’t… he just looked up at us and smiled and said, ‘It’s okay.’ And he told us about the lambs and he said can I name it Lambs for Life?” said Arrietta.
That’s how Lambs for Life started. Alex wanted to give care packages with the Lamb of God to kids battling cancer.
“ The last few months this was everything for him not games not silly stuff he wanted to develop this. And so we did it with him,” said Arrieta, “And a lot of these items that were silly he developed right here at Adventure Cove on his last night.”
But Alex’s passing gave the nonprofit its real purpose.
“Alex died a day and a half after being told his cancer was finally gone… it was the drugs,” said his father, “We watched his heart be destroyed his kidneys, his lungs, the reason we fight so much is that the dysfunction childhood cancer…The drugs that are given to kids are just old adult drugs which affect a child’s body completely different than adults.”
Arrieta said if Alex had survived, “he would have needed a bone marrow transplant a heart transplant and a kidney transplant… at 10 years old.”
Arrieta just got back from lobbying in Washington D.C. where he got support from senators to start drafting new legislation for childhood cancer. In July, the nonprofit is going to start a national tour to deliver Lamby care packs to children in hospitals across the states.
“That’s our job to put it out there to cause some change and to try and take care of these little kids that are in treatment right now,” he said.
Anyone can be what they call a “Lambassador” for the organization to help with anything from hospital visits to sewing soft pillows for children. You can visit their website and fill out a form.