Family looks to build safe haven so others with life-threatening illnesses have a vacation destination

Lennon family (Source: Audrey Biesk)
Lennon family (Source: Audrey Biesk)

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Hearing a child has cancer is never an easy thing to grasp.

One family is sharing hope to others now that their 8-year-old son, Ayven, is a survivor of stage four lymphoma.

The Lennon family, from Bladenboro, N.C., has a dream to build a vacation destination in the Myrtle Beach area for other families who are on the same journey so they know they're not alone.

"Being able to vacation with people who have gone through things similar to you means so much," said Misty Lennon, Ayven's mother. "When you go to a motel and your child doesn't have hair or his port is showing, or for the kids who have had other kinds of cancer where they've had limbs removed, or maybe they have a walker or wheelchair, that sets you apart, and people do look at you and they look at you a little bit differently and you notice."

Ayven was diagnosed with acute B cell lymphoma in 2015, leading to a number of rounds of chemotherapy treatment.

"He was allergic to one of the chemos that he had to take, so the alternative was shots in his legs, and we went for weeks and weeks and he would get a shot in the top of each leg and he was so strong and he has been an inspiration to me and my husband and to our daughter Millie," Lennon said.

Today, Ayven is healthy and the family is now working toward making this vacation destination a reality. With the help of their nonprofit, called A Sunny Place Inc., the village will hopefully be just that.

There are plans for five small homes where families can vacation together and bond over meals and activities catered special for the children's life-threatening illnesses. The ultimate goal is to help them forget the pain for a little while.

The Lennons' dream is just getting started, with plans for a wade pool, equine therapy, baseball, fishing and an arcade.

Misty Lennon's plea to others is financial help.

"We need you to be aware of what children are going through with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses and the toll it takes on families and how important Ayven's Sunny Place is going to be, what a difference one week away is going to make in a family's life who spent all year taking care of a sick child, or back and forth in the hospital or the financial burden," she said.

This is all something the Lennon family knows far too well.

"Being able to love and laugh brings so much healing and it may not always be physical, but there is a spiritual healing that comes from those things," Lennon said.

The Lennon family is hosting a benefit to celebrate Avyen's last treatment. It will be Sept. 7 and Sept. 8 at the Lumber River campground. Click here for more information on Ayven's Sunny Place and how to help get involved.

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