ALL FOR ONE: Southborough firefighter/paramedic Chris Shanahan said the diagnosis of his 18-month-old son, Brendan, with acute lymphoblastic leukemia last month was “absolutely devastating.” Now he and wife, Melinda , who live in Holden, are taking tremendous comfort in their son’s good prognosis as well as widespread community support.
Lieutenant Chris Dano said a man recently stopped by the Southborough fire station with an envelope containing a check and a note that read, “Wishing him good luck. Leftover from last month’s Social Security check. God bless.”
A few days later, the Shanahans were given the names of 23 individuals who have donated to the Brendan Shanahan Relief Fund, which was established by Southborough firefighters. They didn’t recognize a single name.
“It brought tears to our eyes,” said Shanahan, repeatedly referring to the community’s generosity as “amazing.”
“These are people who don’t even know us.”
They do, however, know the lifesaving work that Shanahan and his fellow firefighters, paramedics, and EMTs perform every day, for anyone in need. Shanahan works in three towns: full time at the Southborough Fire Department, part time at MedStar Ambulance in Worcester, and on a per-diem basis at the Holden Fire Department.
Melinda left her job as an EMT a year ago to begin nursing school, which she is putting on hold to care for their son. According to Shanahan, Brandon has 3½ years of treatment ahead of him.
For that reason, a fund-raising committee is establishing multiple ways to support the family. For starters, tickets to a 50-50 raffle will be sold at the Southborough Summer Nights festival, which begins at 5 p.m. Saturday at Neary Elementary School, 53 Parkerville Road.
In addition, “Brendan’s Battle” wristbands are available for $5 at the Southborough firehouse, a road race is being organized in Westborough next month, and a benefit dinner will take place Nov. 9 at the Elks Lodge on Mill Street in Worcester.
“We’re a pretty tight-knit group anyway, but when something happens to one of our own, we really come together,” Dano said. “We told Chris, ‘Just take care of your son. We’ll do the rest.’ ”
Shanahan said he and Melinda are confident that many years from now, they’ll be able to share with Brendan their memories of all those who eased his medically complicated start in life.
“He’s got a lot of people’s lawns to mow to pay them all back,” he said, laughing.
Shanahan said Brendan is still a happy and active toddler, though less interested in playing than prior to his illness.
“You take it day by day. That’s all you can do,” Shanahan said. “You see his smiling face and it gives you hope.”
Donations to the Brendan Shanahan Relief Fund can be sent to St. Mary’s Credit Union, 439a Main St., Hudson, MA 01749.
OVER UNDER: Andrew Goldstein was 10 years old when he began taking bets for clients of his father, who worked in New York City’s garment center by day while also acting as a bookie and smuggling tax-free cigarettes in the 1950s.
Now nearly 65, Goldstein (inset below) has written his first novel, “The Bookie’s Son,” based on his childhood experiences in the Bronx. In the book, 12-year-old Ricky Davis takes over his father’s bookie business to repay his debt to a gangster, while his mother schemes to embezzle funds from a famous client.
Goldstein, who now lives in Concord, wrote “The Bookie’s Son” on and off for 40 years, inspired by memories of his family. He recalls being under “strict orders” from his father to grab the telephone before his sight- and hearing-impaired grandmother could reach it. While his mother had a good job as a legal secretary to a top theatrical lawyer in New York, she, too, shared her husband’s compulsion for gambling, Goldstein said.
A custom builder in the Boston area for the past 32 years, Goldstein has rededicated himself to the craft of writing. At age 27, he was selected as a Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference fellow, and he said it was “relatively easy” to get a nonfiction book, “Becoming: An American Odyssey,” published in 1973. His novel, however, generated “years of rejection slips” before it was accepted for publication.
“My biggest advice is don’t give up,” Goldstein said. “In the writing world, there is a tremendous amount of rejection. Take what you can from those rejections and just keep working.”
HOUSE CALL: On Monday, Hopkinton Community Television and the Massachusetts Medical Society taped their 100th episode of “Physician Focus,” a monthly health-care information program that is distributed to more than 185 public-access television stations statewide.
The guest physicians were the editors of the New England Journal of Medicine, which is celebrating its 200th anniversary. During the episode, “Medicine’s Greatest Achievements,” the magazine’s editor in chief, Dr. Jeffrey Drazen, and deputy editor, Dr. Julie Ingelfinger, examined the importance of medical journals in patient care.
Launched in 2004, “Physician Focus” reaches residents in more than 260 communities. Past topics have included various medical conditions, medication safety, medical literacy, and public health issues such as impaired driving and emergency preparedness.
“The New England Journal of Medicine isn’t read by most patients,” said the program’s host, Dr. Bruce Karlin, a Hopkinton resident who has been with the show since its first episode, but they benefit from it because it “provides the best possible information to physicians and health care professionals who take care of them.”
Since the program is taped two months in advance, last week’s milestone episode will be distributed to stations in October. For more details, visit www.physicianfocus.org.
SUMMER ART: Three local artists — photographer Jeff Engel of Waltham, and jewelry designer Betsy Keeney and painter Nita Leger Casey, both of Pepperell — have works on display in “Summer in the City,” an exhibition at the Loading Dock Gallery at Western Avenue Studios in Lowell through next Sunday.
The exhibition, set up on the second floor of the A-Mill building at 122 Western Ave., also includes works in sculpture, fiber, mixed media, and ceramics. Gallery hours are Wednesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For more information, call 978-710-8605 or visit www.theloadingdockgallery.com.