ARIZONA CITY — An Arizona City mother whose daughter is suffering from a rare and aggressive form of cancer is warning people to be careful when making donations on their behalf.
Leann Riddle, mother of 10-year-old Oliviah Hill, said although legitimate fundraising efforts organized by Alliance Cancer Support Center are underway to help the family with medical and housing costs associated with her daughter’s care, she is worried about flyers created by a man she doesn’t know being circulated in the Casa Grande and Arizona City communities.
The flyers, she said, contain several misleading statements about the child’s medical case.
“We are raising money,” Riddle said. “We do need help, but we don’t want to raise money based on lies.”
Among the untrue statements on the flyer, Riddle said, is a line that refers to Oliviah’s condition as potentially “terminal.”
“Her doctors have never classified this as terminal,” Riddle said. “It’s serious. She’s receiving ongoing care and she’s in a lot of pain, but her condition isn’t terminal.”
Riddle was also concerned with a line on the flyer that reads: “...we are petitioning St. Jude Hospital and Shriner’s Hospital for Children to get her in for extremely needed treatment so that Oliviah can have the life she deserves.”
The child is currently receiving excellent care from a Phoenix-based children’s oncology team, Riddle said.
“We don’t need to petition St. Jude’s or Shriners for treatment,” she said. “Oliviah receives excellent medical care and her oncologist has already sent her case to St. Jude’s for review. We don’t want this man giving the impression that we need help contacting any organizations on our behalf as Oliviah’s doctors have already done that. They’ve contacted Make A Wish Foundation, the Cancer Foundation and other organizations.”
Although Kembly Mourelo with the Alliance Cancer Support Center is the fundraising contact for the Riddle family, the flyers distributed by the man direct people to call him. His phone number, P.O. box and email address are the only contact information on the flyers. Mourelo is not mentioned on the flyer.
With Riddle’s permission, Mourelo has established a GoFundMe account for Oliviah and has made presentations to several area organizations to find funding for the family.
The correct information for the GoFundMe page is mentioned in the flyer.
“If people want to donate, the donations should go through Kembly or the GoFundMe site,” Riddle said. “We haven’t received any donations from the man circulating the flyer.”
The flyer also indicates that a fundraising event is planned for July 18 in Arizona City and implies Oliviah will be in attendance.
“Come to see her,” the flyer reads. “This beautiful girl is always smiling and happy.”
Riddle said the man contacted her and Mourelo soon after an article about Oliviah ran in PinalCentral.
“He said he wanted to help us raise money for Oliviah,” Riddle said.
But when the man forwarded to her a copy of the flyer he created, she asked him to stop due to the misleading information.
Riddle said the man was told upfront that Oliviah could not attend a public fundraising event.
“Oliviah is very sick. She’s in constant pain. And there’s a pandemic,” Riddle said. “She’s not able to attend an event like this, so I was very surprised to see ‘come to see her’ printed on the flyers.”
Oliviah hasn’t been able to sit down, lie on her right side or walk without a walker for more than a year. She has undergone 10 surgeries and has a large open wound where much of her right buttock muscle has been removed.
She was diagnosed with neurofibromatosis type 1, a condition in which often-benign tumors can grow on various parts of the body. But Oliviah’s NF-1 tumor was on her stomach and it wrapped around various other organs.
Pressure from the tumor has resulted in enlarged kidneys. Oliviah’s next procedure will be to have urinary stents implanted to help the kidneys drain fluid.
An email to PinalCentral from the flyer creator said that he no longer plans to conduct fundraising efforts for the family.
“Due to issues Leann has, we have elected to cancel the fundraiser,” he wrote. “Some people just don’t like help. Leann got angry that I used her daughter’s picture that was in your newspaper on the flyer I was going to hand out to help raise money. I put a lot of time into trying to help her as she wanted … but she got angry about everything. I have no time for that. She doesn’t even talk with her pastor about her daughter’s issues. Some people you just can’t help.”
Riddle said she removed a stack of the flyers from the Arizona City Post Office on Monday.
Caring for Oliviah’s open wound is a full-time job for Riddle, whose husband works in construction. With Riddle unable to work, the family is struggling financially.
The family, which includes Oliviah along with her mother, father, brother and sister, currently live in a three-bedroom home with Oliviah’s grandmother and others in Arizona City.
The conditions are not ideal and Mourelo’s fundraising efforts focus on finding affordable housing for the family in Casa Grande and financial assistance associated with costs of the child’s medical care.
The GoFundMe campaign seeks to raise $100,000. To help, contact Mourelo at 520-431-2735 or visit the Go Fund Me page at https://gf.me/u/x96qyn.