Family, friends help 'light the way' to cancer recovery for teenage girl of Tannersville

Samantha Spahr of Reeders, right, lights a candle at Dale's Cafe in Bartonsville to help raise money for cancer victim Elisabeth Campanelli, left, of Tannersville.

TANNERSVILLE — A girl hospitalized with cancer in Philadelphia is getting a helping hand from friends back home in Tannersville.

Dubbed a "Light the Way Home" campaign, the idea is to sell and display luminaries to support the finances and spirits of Elisabeth Campanelli, 14, and her family.

The problem signs for Elisabeth started late last month, when she complained of flu-like symptoms.

The ninth-grader, a cheerleader at Pocono Mountain East Junior High School, felt weak. Her arm shook and she had double vision, said her parents, Chris and Debbie. They took her to the doctor.

A week later, symptoms worsened. Elisabeth's left eye started angling toward the center, as if she was going cross-eyed. They went to the emergency room at Pocono Medical Center, where a CT scan revealed a fist-size tumor in her brain.

"It was really shocking," said Chris Campanelli. "It's still surreal."

Elisabeth was transferred immediately to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, where she received an official diagnosis of brain cancer.

Since then, she has endured two surgeries; the first lasted for 12 hours, Debbie said. The second resulted in a shunt in her brain.

Now, the girl faces weeks of chemotherapy and radiation treatment before she can return home.

"She's doing fantastic right now," said Debbie Campanelli.

Friends and neighbors have come together to help boost her spirits.

"Light the Way Home" was launched last week, with the goal of bringing Elisabeth back home healthy. It is being organized by Christine Harvell, the mother of Elisabeth's best friend, Carissa.

Harvell said her family felt hopeless and helpless when they first learned of Elisabeth's diagnosis, and that Carissa cried and panicked.

"I had to think quick to get her to focus on the hope and positive outlook for her friend's future," Harvell said.

She persuaded local stores and sites to sell luminary kits, containing a paper bag and tea light, for $1.

The goal is for the luminaries to be lit up on the evening of April 11, the day before Easter, at businesses and homes in Tannersville as a sign of hope and support to the family. The money that is raised will go to the family to help defray their expenses.

The kits can be found at Dale's Cafe, Friendly's Restaurant, Miss Margaret's Movement and Dance, and Pocono Township Municipal Building. Harvell said they also were available in the junior and senior high schools in Pocono Mountain during lunch.

The Campanelli family has been thankful for the outreach from friends they have made over the years, many of them through the sports and activities of the family's three children.

"The phone has not stopped ringing, with people asking 'what do you need?'"Š"Š" said Debbie Campanelli. "What am I going to tell them? I need my daughter to be healthy."