By Theresa D. McClellan
For the Fort Bend Star
Amid tears and smiles from the parents and handclaps from the baby brother of Connor Olympia, the owners of Brandani’s Restaurant presented the Olympia family with the windfall of their month-long fundraising and awareness effort – a check for nearly $20,000.
For the last five Tuesdays in August, Ron and Claire Brandani gave 50 percent of their Brandani’s Restaurant & Wine Bar sales to raise money to find a cure for the pediatric brainstem cancer that took 4-year-old “Connor Man” Olympia from his family.
Connor Michael Olympia was diagnosed last year with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG) shortly after his fourth birthday. The smiling blonde youngster was so excited that he was getting a baby brother so his Missouri City parents, Peter and Alexis Olympia, allowed Connor to choose baby Ryan’s middle name of Henry.
Connor died last Oct. 29, six days before his brother was born and just shy of his own 5th birthday.
So the family created the Defeat DIPG Foundation and their website www.Connorman.org in his memory to help find more treatment options and hopefully a cure for the rare, inoperable brainstem cancer that hits 200 children a year between the ages of 4 and 11 years.
The awareness effort began following a friendship forged just by being neighbors in the Sienna Plantation planned community as the family dealt with the crisis. Claire learned of the problem and started surreptitiously delivering meals to the family and leaving before they could find her to thank her.
Now fast friends, the Brandanis presented two checks Tuesday night. They raised $14,089.60 from gifting their August sales to the Olympia family Defeat DIPG Foundation. Then Ron participated in an online neighborhood competition/promotion called “I am Sienna,” with the winner receiving a check for $5,000 toward their favorite charity.
A total of 15,320 votes were cast during the online competition in which five well-known Sienna residents vied to win for their favorite charity. Ron Brandani received 57 percent of the vote and gifted the money to the DIPG Foundation.
“I love everything about Sienna Plantation and I am proud to represent it. One of the many things I have noticed in the 10 years my family and I have lived here is the willingness of the community to support each other and give generously to local charities,” said Ron Brandani.
The extra $5,000 was a surprise for the Olympia family and Ron was pleased that Christen Johnson, senior vice president of marketing for Sienna developer Johnson Development Corp., was able to present the check.
“Not many people know about this disease and it is devastating. This $5,000 will go a long way toward funding the research,” Ryan said.
While some tears fell, there were also multiple smiles from youngsters wearing the trademark black and gold Connorman t-shirts with the Batman insignia. Connor’s baby brother Ryan charmed onlookers with his coos and claps.
“This means so much, we are just so grateful and we will keep on fighting,” said the father.
Connor’s birthday is Nov. 19 and his mother worked eight years at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth when Connor grew ill so she quit to care for her son. Efforts are underway to have a fundraiser there for his birthday.