Downeast community comes together for dinner benefitting 10-year-old with cancer

Published: Jan. 26, 2023 at 4:58 PM EST
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NORTHEAST HARBOR, Maine (WABI) - The Downeast community is coming together to support a local family going through a challenging time.

TV5 caught up with 10-year-old Journey Gartner and her parents ahead of this weekend’s planned benefit dinner.

“I’m just in awe of her. She’s a true superhero. She’s done harder things than most people will ever have to do. And she does them with grace and most importantly, a whole lot of faith,” said Melanie Gartner, Journey’s mom.

It’s been almost two years since we last met up with Lamoine’s Journey Gartner. At a 2021 parade in Ellsworth, members of the community joined the family to celebrate the completion of a bone marrow transplant from Journey’s younger brother, Ezra.

“We thought he was going to be the only donor but it didn’t turn out like that,” said Melanie.

Not long after, Journey’s MDS, a rare bone marrow disorder and form of blood cancer, returned.

The family says since then they’ve been exhausting all options for treatment.

“We’re doing everything we can medically and putting a lot of trust and faith in our doctors to come up with something and to do what they can. But literally at this point it will take a miracle,” said Melanie.

The search for that miracle is what brought the Garnters to New York City. Journey is currently participating in a clinical trial that required another transplant, her third, in November.

Despite the distance, friends back in Maine are joining the family in their fight.

“We were already here and Melanie got a text from Julia. That said, kind of by the way, this is what I’m doing and she’s done everything ever since,” said David Gartner, Journey’s dad.

Julia Axtell is the driving force behind a community dinner planned for Saturday in Northeast Harbor. She’s spent countless hours planning and says local businesses have really stepped up with donations.

“I wanted to help in some way,” said Axtell. “I feel like we can show them support as a community because they probably feel far away.”

Through both the dinner and a GoFundMe, Axtell is hoping to raise $50,000.

“Whether Journey’s treatment is successful or not, I don’t want them to come home and lose their house or have hundreds of thousands of medical bills waiting. And I’m sure this will just make a tiny dent in it,” said Axtell.

To the Gartners, there’s nothing tiny about this effort. They say they’re grateful for the support of the community, and to everyone who’s willing to help them put a smile on their daughter’s face.

“People are good. People are just good, and we’ve seen that,” said Melanie.

The Community Dinner benefiting Journey and her family is planned for this Saturday from 4:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m.

It will be held at the Neighborhood House on Kimball Road in Northeast Harbor.

There will be a live band and a silent auction featuring more than 60 prizes.

Some of the prizes include:

-Three night Memorial Day weekend stay at a beautiful AirBNB in Bar Harbor from Holland Ave vacation rentals

-Two night stay at the Acadia Inn

-$100 gift certificate to McKays Public House

-$100 gift certificate to Jordan’s Restaurant

-Two tickets to the Margaret Todd sailboat

-Two tickets to the Bar Harbor Ferry

-Pick-a-pearl package, makes a pearl necklace, bracelet, and earrings (worth $250)

-A cashmere throw blanket, new, from Italy

-A gift certificate to the Reading Room restaurant

For more details, visit the event page on Facebook.