Among those who helped motivate the Patriots on to their defeat of the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl last month was 9-year-old Samantha Caldwell of Vineyard Haven. Samantha was one of a handful of kids at Boston’s Children’s Hospital who were videotaped offering a pregame pep talk that was shown to the team before the game. Just hours before she was released from Boston’s Children’s Hospital, where she was recovering from brain surgery, Samantha offered up these words of encouragement: “You’ve got moxie!”
The same could be said of the Tisbury School third grader. Diagnosed with cancer, she just recently began daily radiation treatments that will last for six weeks. And Samantha’s hanging tough.
Now, friends of the courageous little girl will be offering their own form of support. On Sunday, March 15, Offshore Ale will host “Jam for Sam,” a daylong fundraiser and morale booster that will feature special menu items, a silent auction, and live music by a veritable Who’s Who of Island musicians.
The party will kick off with a special Irish breakfast in honor of St. Paddy’s Day. The music will continue throughout lunch and dinner time, until 9 pm. All proceeds from dine-in food sales will go toward helping the Caldwell family through this trying time.
More than just a fundraiser, the party should help lift the spirits of a family that is facing a long and arduous trial. Samantha and her mother Anne travel every week to Boston for a five-day regimen of radiation treatments. On Friday evenings, the two are reunited with Samantha’s father Glen and 6-year-old sister Julia for a shortened weekend before they return to Boston on Sunday afternoons.
This weekend the Caldwells are stretching their time on the Vineyard a little so that Samantha can attend as much of the festivities as possible. If all goes as planned, she will be on hand for the party — no doubt enjoying her Offshore Ale favorites, warm chocolate chip cookies and peanut butter pie.
The Caldwell’s trials began in early January, when Samantha was treated twice for severe stomach distress at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital emergency room. Shortly afterward, a series of seizures alerted medical staff to the severity of her condition. “They had to give us the horrifying news that she had a brain tumor,” says Mr. Caldwell. Samantha was airlifted to Children’s Hospital, where she underwent surgery. The procedure, which took place on a Monday, was successful. The next morning Samantha was up talking, walking a little, and eating. She was released that Friday, in time to attend a family Super Bowl party on the Cape. “She was really excited about that,” says Mr. Caldwell. “She’s a big fan.”
However, Samantha’s road to recovery had just begun. “We came back to the Island, and Samantha returned to school for a few hours each day,” says Mr. Caldwell. “Then we got the results from pathology. The tumor was cancerous. They started to map out the treatment schedule.”
Once she has completed the initial six weeks of radiation treatments, Samantha will get four weeks off before beginning a chemotherapy schedule that will continue until the end of the year. Undaunted, Samantha is keeping up with her schoolwork with the help of her teachers and her mother, who is on the faculty of the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School.
“She’s a great student to begin with,” says Mr. Caldwell, “and a ferocious reader. When she’s done with radiation, she’s going to give everything she’s got to going back to school.” Samantha’s other interests include art and music and, according to her father, “she’s a wonderful big sister.”
For more than 10 years Samantha’s father Glen Caldwell worked at Offshore Ale, serving in a variety of functions including bartender and kitchen manager. He was onboard when Colleen and Phil McAndrews took over the business in 2006. “He was a huge part of the Offshore family,” says Ms. McAndrews. Samantha, too, pitched in, occasionally serving as unofficial greeter. “She loved to sit at the hostess stand,” says Ms. McAndrews. “Samantha kind of grew up there,” says Mr. Caldwell. “I left work there two years ago to work for Sysco Foods. It was a very difficult decision for me. I love the place.”
The affection is mutual, and when the McAndrews learned of the Caldwells’ situation, they knew they had to do something to help. Many others in the community were inspired to pitch in as well.
Mr. Caldwell, who served as tour manager for local band Entrain for many years, is very much a part of the Island music community. His longtime friend, musician Mike Benjamin, was instrumental in securing the talent for the upcoming event. “People emailed me back in about 10 seconds,” he says, “Everyone was eager to get involved.” The musical lineup will include (but will not be limited to) Tom Major, Joanne Cassidy, Wes Nagy, Mike Benjamin, Jeremy Berlin, Greg Harcourt, Geoff Patterson, and Steve Tully. More and more musicians are jumping onboard every day.
The Caldwells are impressed with the outpouring of encouragement and aid from the community. “What balances out this terrible thing that we’re going through is seeing so many people doing so much for us,” says Mr. Caldwell. “I’m fascinated by how the Island circles the wagons and really tightens up in times of emergency. From close friends, to those just outside our immediate circle, to people we don’t even know, everyone has been really wonderful to us.”
Mr. Caldwell would also like to give a shout-out to the Steamship Authority: “They move mountains for people who are going through difficult times like this. They’ve been great.”
“Jam for Sam” party and fundraiser for Samantha Caldwell and her family. All day Sunday, March 15, at the Offshore Ale Co., Kennebec Avenue, Oak Bluffs. Irish breakfast from 9 – 11 am, lunch from 11:30 am – 4:00 pm, dinner 5 – 8:30 pm. Special menu items. Live music and silent auction all day. All proceeds from dine-in food benefit the Caldwell family.
You can also make a tax-deductible donation to the Caldwell family through the local “You’ve Got a Friend” organization by mailing a check to: YGAF, Inc. c/o Samantha Caldwell, P.O. Box 1317, West Tisbury MA 02575. Please write “Samantha Caldwell” in the memo line. 100 percent of donations go to the Caldwell family.